Stephen Hawking (RIP)

Discussion in 'Shooting the Breeze' started by elacsaplau, Apr 2, 2018.

  1. odyssey06

    odyssey06 Frequent Poster

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    Mars looks pretty dead... I don't see how can that be in harmony with anything. It has the peace of the grave.
    There are many 'natural' events that could lead to the end of all life on Earth. I see no harmony in that.
    We may have the capacity for great destruction, but let us hope, also the capacity to hold back from the brink...

    In our past, we regularly made the opposite mistake.
    Ancient civilizations thought that the stars were gods rather than a part of nature. We now know that they are part of nature.
    They thought that the bones of dinosaurs were the bones of the giants of the myths and legends.
    In Ireland we have the "Giants Causeway", formed by a natural volcanic process.
    So we as a people have a strange sense of what is 'natural' that does not always tally with reality.

    Peasants in 18th century France put an astronomer on trial for unnatural witchcraft... though they were as unnatural as he!
     
  2. dub_nerd

    dub_nerd Frequent Poster

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    There are indeed natural waste lands. Toxic oil seeps have been used to tar the bottoms of boats, and the La Brea tarpits in Los Angeles are an interesting place to visit where oil seeps laid waste to generations of American megafauna over tens of thousands of years.

    On a cosmic scale, supernovae can sterilise volumes of hundreds of thousands of cubic light years of all life. If we lived closer to the centre of our galaxy where such events are more common, we would have been toast long before we invented sliced bread. I don't think mankind can outdo nature in sheer destructive power. But I do think we can modify our environment in a way that no other species we know of can.

    Even though bacteria have formed our atmosphere and rusted the planetary crust, and plants have spread to every corner of the globe, those are the unintentional collective effects of countless organisms. An artifact such as the Antikythera mechanism -- an ancient computer which might be the work of a single individual -- would surely convince any discoverer that its maker was possessed of a deep intelligence and ability to shape its environment. Certainly other animals are intelligent, but our intelligence is of such a degree as to seem of an entirely different order.

    I can understand joe sod's comment about the seeming unnaturalness of this situation. It's hard to understand how air travel or astrophysics could have been essential to our competition with other creatures. I suppose we have to understand it in terms of brain plasticity and the evolutionary advantage of a general purpose intelligence that could adapt to many different situations. It has led to an overshoot in our dominance of the planet. That said, bacteria were here long before us and will probably be here long after us. Intelligence could be an evolutionary dead end, providing one worrying possible resolution to the Fermi paradox.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2018
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  3. joe sod

    joe sod Frequent Poster

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    Ive heard of that before, if there was intelligent life in the universe why have we not encountered them. Maybe we are destined to wipe ourselves out anyway so there is no point in worrying about global warming. If we went to the gargantuan efforts to control warming we would probably just get hit by an asteroid and be wiped out anyway. Im arguing against my original point now but probably one thing that does not distinguish us from other animals is our inability to control the human population. If we were really serious about controlling green house gases and other deleterious environmental changes surely we should be discussing population control properly.
    We are on the exact same path as every other animal exponential population growth followed by collapse.
     
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  4. Purple

    Purple Frequent Poster

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    That's a rather long post about an argument that nobody is making other than you. Inductive logic can be a screen for the most implausible and incredible notions which, in theory, could be true. That's the whole point of the celestial teapot argument.
    There are lots of things we don't know. There are lots of things we may never know. Suggesting that those gaps in our knowledge can or should be filled by God, or Gods or Celestial Teapots or any other such constructs is no different from ancient man worshiping the god or gods which lit the sun every morning and extinguished it in the sea each evening. Both are just fulling the unknown with the illogical and unreasonable.
     
  5. dub_nerd

    dub_nerd Frequent Poster

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    Certainly there are lots of things we don't know and may never know. But there is only one thing we know we will never know -- an ultimate known unknown if you like. That is the thing which Hawking alluded to in the closing page of A Brief History of Time, the unparameterisable existence of fundamental laws, whatever they are. This is not an if, but or maybe. It is an inescapably logical fact.

    I've noticed that people who object to metaphysical speculation don't seem to get so exercised when Steven Hawking does it. But it's not just Steven Hawking's idle musings in a bestselling book. Theories such as cosmic inflation are motivated by the metaphysical speculation that apparent cosmic fine-tuning must have a simpler underlying explanation. (It is hard to get across the degree of fine-tuning involved in the flatness problem without getting into arcane physics). In recent decades those theories have crossed a line of untestable speculation involving infinite numbers of causally disconnected parallel universes and such like. Personally I consider such speculation to be entirely logical and reasonable (which it is, as it employs logic and reason), but let's not kid ourselves that it is scientific. Those who scornfully object to one line of speculation and not another are just revealing their own dogmatic bias.

    (EDIT to note: I am talking about reasonable inferences from the evidence, not anti-scientific obscurantism like Young Earth Creationism).
     
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  6. Purple

    Purple Frequent Poster

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    I'm no expert in the area but theories such as cosmic inflation were, as far as I know, postulated in order to solve the flatness problem. They are based on something, tied to something, explain or broaden our knowledge, of only theoretically, about how the universe works. "God" is an intellectual cop-out from a scientific perspective. It is a dead end. It explains nothing and builds on nothing.
     
  7. dub_nerd

    dub_nerd Frequent Poster

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    "God" explains quite a lot, and can be a starting point for a lot more. But that's not the point here. The Cosmological argument is just an argument for a "first cause". As such, it's kind of irrefutable. The trajectory of science is to aim for greater unification, to explain the complexity of the world with deeper and simpler explanations. It is an approach that has worked well for science, although it is by no means scientifically obvious (or even explicable) why that should be the case. The Cosmological argument just skips a few steps ahead and tells science what it's going to find if and when it gets to a single underlying explanation. That explanation will be the first cause.

    (P.S. Cosmic inflation is currently an idea that can predict a large variety of universes, and by explaining everything threatens to explain nothing. That could change if we discover the B-mode of the CMB polarisation, but right now even scientists recognise that it is based on nothing more than a desire to avoid the implications of special fine-tuning. You accused me of writing an overly long post before, but I'm happy to provide an explanation with references if you wish).
     
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  8. Purple

    Purple Frequent Poster

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    Your posts are interesting and informative. They just aren't always answering the issue. I'm hardly one to take a position on that though.
    Sure, but there are lots of theories about what that first cause was. I think most people see this issue as if time is linear and "first" is independent of, and not affected by, the physical universe.
     
  9. dub_nerd

    dub_nerd Frequent Poster

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    I'm open to correction if you're able to tell me what they are. But I do know a little bit about this stuff and I think I enumerated pretty much all of the cosmogenic theories myself in post #23 and not one of them is a theory about a first cause. In fact I believe it is a matter of basic logic that a scientific explanation of a first cause is an oxymoron (and I make that case in the last paragraph of this post). What's more, the evidence that the universe had a hot dense beginning is uncontested in science today. Whether that was a true beginning or just the latest phase of an oscillation is undecided, but there is no evidence for the latter case. Even in the couple of half-baked theories that exist, any evidence of a previous phase gets erased by the transition to the current phase. If there is no possibility of evidence then the case is undecidable by science. This puts such theories on a par with every other metaphysical explanation. The theories are motivated by little more than unease with the idea of the universe springing into existence ex nihilo.

    I don't really understand that sentence. But certainly the idea of "first" has to be more than temporal antecedence since we are talking about the creation of time as well. Some of the early medieval writers dealt with this, positing an ontological first cause even if the physical universe is eternal.

    But here's a train of thought. I'd be interested to know where you think it becomes illogical. Either the physical universe had a beginning or it did not. The overwhelming evidence is that the universe that we inhabit had a beginning, something over thirteen billion years ago. It may be a continuing phase of an older universe but there is zero evidence for that. If it is a true beginning then it may be that there is a way to create the universe "from nothing" as some sort of quantum fluctuation. However, according to quantum field theory, quantum fluctuations are excitations in quantum fields which are the most fundamental realities postulated by science today. The field that may have started it all is dubbed the inflaton field in inflation theory. If that is true then science hits a brick wall as there is no more fundamental theory than quantum field theory. If a more fundamental theory is found, then whatever entities that theory deals with will be unexplainable by science.
     
  10. Purple

    Purple Frequent Poster

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    You summed up the whole thing nicely with this;
    Just extrapolate that to every/any other theory about what happened before the start of the universe/ the start of this phase of the universe. There is zero evidence for any of it, including god (or the teapot). That's the nub of it; inserting god (or the teapot) into the discussion makes no sense as it is baseless and illogical. You may as well say it was fairies or pixies or the whole thing started 5000 or so years ago and all the evidence to support quantum theory, geology and the fossil record is just god playing a joke on us. Introduce god and all science is meaningless as anything and everything can be explained by the big sky fairy.
     
  11. dub_nerd

    dub_nerd Frequent Poster

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    I see you still can't get your head around the fact that evidence and logic are two different things. Scientists have come up with all sorts of theories for which there is no evidence. They are not illogical, just lacking evidence.

    ... except that would be illogical.

    That's simply baloney. How does god make Newtonian gravity meaningless? On the other hand we know, as a matter of the most trivial logic, that science isn't going to come up with any theory for the origin of everything.
     
  12. Purple

    Purple Frequent Poster

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    I can get my head around it just fine thanks.
    It is no more or less logical than "god"
    To extrapolate that the absence of a scientific explanation for anything therefore leaves room for a logical argument for the existence of god is simply baloney. Just as the absence of such as explanation does not leave room for the existence of fairies or the celestial teapot. They are all equally absurd.
    As for Newtonian gravity, sure that could just our explanation for what God does to stop things from falling into space.
     
  13. dub_nerd

    dub_nerd Frequent Poster

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    And yet you keep conflating the two.

    Fairies are little people that live at the end of your garden. If they made the universe then they made the garden and themselves with it. That's illogical. God doesn't live at the end of your garden. Ergo, fairies are less logical than god.

    No, it simply isn't. That's like saying that the lack of a scientific explanation for the presents under your Christmas tree leaves no room for the hypothesis that your family members put them there. Not all logical arguments are scientific, particularly ones involving agency and intentionality. A teleological argument for the existence of god is not illogical.

    It could indeed. But when we see things that work the same way repeatedly we tend to assign them the status of physical law. If they are the direct action of god then it seems he does certain types of actions habitually.
     
  14. Leo

    Leo Moderator

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    I made a shed, I can walk into said shed. You saying God's magical powers don't extend to creating a door?
     
  15. Purple

    Purple Frequent Poster

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    No, I don't.

    The Fairies could have made the universe and the garden they live in; inductive logic.

    No, it's like saying that the lack of a scientific explanation for the presents under your Christmas tree means it is logical (inductively) to say that Santa put them there. It is nonetheless reasonable and logical (in the way people who aren't looking to justify the absurd understand what logic means) to dismiss the Santa argument as irrational and fanciful and an attempt by children to hold onto magic in the face of rationality.
    A theological argument for the existence of god is logical only if you ignore the fundamental illogicality of the premise used to construct the argument.

    Sure, but it could just as likely be a celestial teapot.
     
  16. dub_nerd

    dub_nerd Frequent Poster

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    See my answer to Purple below.

    If the fairies had to make the garden before they could live at the end of it then fairies are not (or at least not always) little people that live at the end of your garden. So we need a different definition of fairies. You didn't define fairies so I filled in the blanks. If you want to make the case that "fairies are no more or less logical than god" under a different definition of fairies (perhaps one that sounds very much like god) I'm fine with that.

    First, note I said teleological, not theological. That means an argument from agency. You know in advance that presents don't arrive under the Christmas tree on their own, so someone put them there. Now all you have to figure out is who. You could of course hypothesise it was Santa, but assuming you are an adult -- perhaps even one who has put presents under the tree for your own children -- you probably know better. So what's your equivalent argument for how you know a universe that looks designed wasn't made by rational agency? You mention "fundamental illogicality" but apart from continually repeating that mantra you have made no case for it. Note, I am not placing the burden of proving the non-existence of god on you -- that would be unreasonable. I'm merely asking you to substantiate your claim of illogicality. The inference that someone put the presents under the Christmas tree was not illogical. I'm merely extrapolating to a universe that looks designed.

    Teapots don't generally do things of their own agency. You can keep invoking teapots, fairies, and Santa as much as you like. I recognise the argumentative ploy involved in presenting nonsense hypotheses as a way of ridiculing an argument you dislike. But we'd probably move along quicker if you stuck to logic for a while. Merely asserting that something is "no more logical than fairies (or teapots or Santa)" doesn't make it so. With respect, that just sounds like a Richard Dawkins groupie who hasn't done much original thinking of their own.
     
  17. Purple

    Purple Frequent Poster

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    What's your definition of God.





    Teleological design is the same as intelligent design. I hope that's not where you are going with this?
    You can go around this all you like but whatever badge you put on the notion of what we don't know about how the universe came into being justifying the argument for the existence of god is just fanciful. It is filling the void with nonsense. It is just another unknown beyond the unknown we are looking to explain.

    Arguing against it doesn't make it untrue. I am not using an argumentative ploy, I am pointing out the absurdity of inserting the supernatural into a discussion about the gaps in what we know about the universe.

    With respect you sound like someone who is trying to construct a scientific argument to justify the illogical and absurd. You are attempting too build an argument based not not on a reasonable inferences from the evidence but on an unreasonable inference based on the lack of evidence.
    In your argument "god" is just "some other thing we don't know about".
     
  18. dub_nerd

    dub_nerd Frequent Poster

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    The First Cause of the universe, probably with rational agency to account for apparent design in the universe.

    Not in the sense I suspect you think, unless you think the medieval scholastics were best mates with American evangelicals. Given that you only just Googled the term, I'm going to hazard a guess you're confused about this one.

    Science isn't looking to explain a First Cause. If you think it is, could you give some attributes that such an explanation would have? When you think about it just a little, a scientific explanation of a First Cause is oxymoronic (though for some reason that doesn't seem obvious to dogmatic materialists).

    First of all, my argument is not scientific. No theory about First Causes can be (though you seem to think otherwise). It doesn't have the attributes of reproducibility or falsifiability. I actually do science, so I know the difference. Nevertheless it is not illogical. That's just a term you keep bandying about without justification. Logic is the study of the principles of correct reasoning. An argument can be logical without being correct, for instance if it is based on untrue premises. Theories of various sorts are falsified all the time. That does not mean they were illogical to begin with. According to your usage, for instance, the theory of the luminiferous aether was illogical, not merely falsified by the Michelson-Morley experiment. That's incorrect.

    If it's any help, your position seems to be one that I have seen referred to as epistemological scientism -- the idea that only science can ask meaningful questions (even in this area where we know in advance science can never provide a meaningful answer). Essentially it's a "nobody's allowed play with my ball even though I'm not playing with it myself" kind of position. :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018 at 2:30 PM
  19. Purple

    Purple Frequent Poster

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    "Probably" being the operative word. In your definition god is simply "something we don't know and, based on what we currently know, will never know". That's a big vague.

    Now you are getting personal, as well as coming across all arrogant, but I presume you know that medieval scholastic's were all creationists.

    I have no idea what the first cause was or if there was one as we currently understand it.

    By your logic fairies are logical, as is just about anything which cannot be dis-proven. When we get to the realm of arguments which are logical within themselves but are not supported by any evidence then to me that is absurd (hence my continued use of the word).

    I did google that one. Of course science is not the only thing that can ask meaningful questions but using the lack of scientific evidence to justify a non scientific proposition is, in colloquial parlance, comparing apples and oranges.
     
  20. dub_nerd

    dub_nerd Frequent Poster

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    It is the operative word in all scientific theories also. You presumably know that science cannot prove anything to be true, but operates on balance of probability from observed regularities.

    No, we can reason about god's attributes, from the nature of the universe for instance and our own existence in it.

    I was just going by your confusion about teleological vs. theological in your previous post.

    As, by definition, is anyone who hypothesises about god as a first cause. Not to be confused with Young Earth Creationists, or Intelligent Design proponents of special design.

    And do you think that science, even in principle, can ever provide the anwer?

    No, fairies that live at the end of your garden are not logical if there are no gardens. If you want to provide a different definition of fairies then we can consider them on their merits to see if they entail a logical contradiction.

    Ok, so you agree they are logical. That's progress. As to evidence, this brings us full circle to the Cosmological argument. The evidence is the existence of the universe.