Saturday, October 2, 2010

Stephen Hawking Has Proven That God Exists

Although it is alluded to throughout the Grand Design, its core argument against the concept of God lies in Hawking and Mlodinow's interpretation of the nature of the multiverse and the quantum mechanics at play in the early universe. 

The arguments are as follows.  The nature of the universe, say they, is such that it generates all possible structures, physics, and spacetimes.  The number of possible options within the universe is, they suggest, functionally infinite, being at a theoretical minimum of on the order of 10500 potential realities.  That means that while we might see intricacies and divine order in our universe, there are also quite literally billions of sad, stumpy universes that collapse in on themselves or disperse like cosmological flatulence a picosecond after coming into being.  This, according to Hawking, refutes the primary concept of intelligent design, by which one determines the necessary existence of God based on the elegance of the structures of physics.

The second argument from quantum theory is that the multiverse is sui generis, meaning it is self-creating.   Noting that subatomic particles behave in ways that imply they actualize all possibilities, and that at some point near Big Bang singularity the universe existed only at the subatomic level,  Hawking and Mlodinow suggest that it is this characteristic that causes the creation of all potential being.  Again, this is interpreted to indicate that God is not necessary in such a system. 

This is understandable, but it is hardly the only option.  Honestly, what they've done here is amazingly, strikingly, marvelously compatible with belief in God.  If M-Theory holds, it is perhaps the closest science has come to affirming some of the fundamental tenets of faith, and in particular the necessary existence of God.  With only the tiniest bit of conceptual aikido, just the gentlest redirecting touch, it becomes M-Theology.  

Let's take a look at that, why don't we?

Since the Enlightenment, science has been fundamentally empirical.  The scientific understanding of reality has been firmly locked into what can be seen and observed and touched and tasted, to the measurable dynamics of nature.   If it cannot be observed, science has told us, then it is not real, and asserting that there is anything outside of our spacetime has been declared delusional.  We theists, who with a few pantheist and panentheist exceptions tend to conceive of God as existing outside of our reality, well, we're just a widdle kwazy. 

With M-Theory, that has all changed.  At a basic level, this assemblage of quantum theoretics affirms that beyond our universe, beyond what can be seen, there lie all sorts of ineffable marvels that defy even the structures of our physics.  M-Theory, backed by the thrumming power of vast underground accelerators and complex and elegant computer modeling, with all the certitude of scientific observation leaning it's way, affirms the existence of the supernatural.   Beyond our reality, there are immeasurable heavens, says Hawking.  And immeasurable hells, adds Mlodinow, looking a bit spooked.

This is a nontrivial shift in scientific cosmology.

But what about God?  What place does a Creator have in this cosmological system?  Clearly, Hawking and Mlodinow do not believe that it is required.  The infinite generativity of quantum mechanics at the point of singularity are sufficient for them.   Yet, again, they seem very slightly oblivious to the implications of their assertions.  What they are proposing doesn't make God unnecessary.  Quite to the contrary.  M-Theory makes the existence of God defensible from a rational and scientific standpoint.

In my previous blogging on the intersection between multiverse cosmology and theology, I've noted that M-Theory removes the only rational objection to an ancient proof for the existence of God.   That proof was offered up by a 10th Century Archbishop of Canterbury, in which he argued that God was "that than which nothing greater can be conceived."  Because we can conceive of an omniscient, omnipotent and eternally self-aware being, and because something that exists is greater than something that does not, God must exist.

It's a pretty argument, but the problem with it is obvious.  We can think of plenty of things, wonderful, amazing things, that don't exist.  We can imagine that we have our very own flying car.  We can visualize an America that is financially solvent.  We can imagine that Hamas and Likud watch futbol together and roar with laughter.  Within the finite boundaries of our cold, hard reality, there are plenty of things that don't exist, no matter how desperately we want them to.  Just because God is possible, doesn't mean that God actually is.

But with M-Theory, that objection falls away.   Hawking and Mlodinow are really, really adamant about this.  Quantum mechanics tell us that every possible thing exists.  And if all potentiality must by necessity be, then God must by necessity exist.

So Hawking has accidentally given us scientific grounds for belief in the transcendent.   He has also, inadvertently, suggested that God...meaning a being that we'd generally say meets that an entirely probable part of that infinite, eternal, transcendent reality.

The logical question then arises:  what would be the relevance of such a Being?  Hasn't Hawking shown that reality just up and creates itself?  Yeah, maybe there's a God, but so what?

Further up and further in...


  1. One of the objections to Anselm 1.0 was that it could prove that Evil God exists. So do you agree that M-Theory and Anselm 2.0 prove that Evil God exists?

  2. But what about the Magic Fairy? What place does a Magic Man have in this cosmological system?

  3. @ Browning: No, actually, the primary objection to Anselm 1.0 was that possibility wasn't actuality. But I see where you're coming from. If you assume that the greatest being that can possibly exist is axiomatically evil, if a Creator must by necessity be a monster, then of course God must be evil. My sense, given our conversations, is that this is your position. Not one I hold, though, for obvious reasons.

    @ Human Ape: For Hawking and Mlodinow, spacetimes where what to us would be magic appear to have a place.

    As might, to our great surprise and delight, the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Yay! Those superstrings we encounter in some subatomic realms may be His Noodly Appendages after all...

    That doesn't relate to Anselm, of course. But it makes us happy.

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  5. @David.

    Actually, I don't think you are getting where I'm coming from. (I've been talking about an "evil God" in different contexts elsewhere. Specifically, I've said that I think a creator of a complete multiverse would be necessarily be a Deist sort of God, and effectively indifferent to our suffering, and therefore evil in some sense. That is a completely separate issue from the one I am raising here, though I can see how it would be confusing.)

    If I understand your Anselm 2.0, it goes a little something like this. The objection to Anselm 1.0 is that the argument can apply equally well to things that are obviously fictional. If Anselm proves that Superman exists, then so much the worse for Anselm. However, in a complete multiverse, Superman does exist. Therefore, the objection to Anselm falls away, and his argument can be deemed successful after all.

    There are a number of problems with this, that I can see.

    1. The apparent necessity of Superman (et al) is not the only objection to Anselm 1.0. It is just a particularly vivid kind of reductio ad absurdum illustration of the the argument's inherent logical flaws. But even if you can produce a Man of Steel, or a multiverse in which he and every other fantastic Anselmic being is necessary, you haven't actually dispensed with all the objections to Anselm, some of which are just formally logical.
    2. I have just finished reading The Grand Design myself, and it's not clear to me that M-theory really means what you think it means. I'm not so sure that the M-theory multiverse is as complete as you seem to assume. I'm not entirely sure I get it myself, and it would be interesting to discuss it with you outside the context of our theological differences, just to see if we are talking about the same thing, and just because it would be fun to share our mutual enthusiasm for mind-bending cosmology. But in the meantime, I'm a little dubious of your premise.
    3. But, for the sake of argument, let's assume that you are right about M-theory and that there are no rational objections to Anselm besides the menagerie of fantastic reductio beings that it invites into existence. One of the classic reductio objections to Anselm goes like this. Let's call it Evil Anselm:

    a. I can imagine the worst possible being as being omnipotent, omniscient and omnimalevolent -- Evil God.
    b. An Evil God who exists is clearly much worse than one who doesn't.
    c. Therefore Evil God must exist.

    If Anselm 1.0 is true, then Evil Anselm must also be true. Reductio ad absurdum, and so much the worse for Anselm 1.0. But if a complete multiverse makes all such beings not so absurdum anymore, how does your Anselm 2.0 deal with Evil Anselm?

    [reposted to correct some confusing typos]

  6. @ Browning: Ah. I see. Mea culpa. Your song to God is so very "How I Hate Thee, Let Me Count The Ways, Gosh There Are So Many" that I sometimes lose track. As you note, given that the last way was hatin' on the Evil Enlightenment Deist God for being such an uncaring standoffish prig, my error is hopefully understandable.

    To the eyes of the theist, though, there seem two issues.

    First, as to your Anselm 1.0, the creature you've described exists in some dualistic theological systems. You and John of Patmos been sharing a devil-weed pipe lately?

    However, to assert that this is "God" under Anselm 1.0 doesn't really capture the "greatest that can be conceived" concept, unless evil (meaning seeking the harm of other beings and hungering for power over them) is the best form of being you can possibly think of. You just aren't that sort of atheist.

    Anselm 2.0's evil mustachio-twirling twin seems impossible, in the same way that a universe whose physics are inherently unstable can't do anything other than fail. Omniscience and "omnimalevolence," for instance. How does a being that is complete in its knowledge hate another being, given that it knows the other being as itself? How does it hunger for power, and act to dominate and consolidate its power, if it is already omnipotent?

    The human categories that define "evil" fall apart at that level of being.

    word verification: fatted.

  7. Yes, going full-on Manichaen would be one way to handle it, but that's more a problem for you than for me, since you seem to think that Anselm's argument is more than so much nonsense (I don't) and (b) I think an equal adversary doesn't fit in your theology (and, believing in neither God nor the adversary, I don't care). You seem to be leaning more towards some kind of ad hoc disqualification for the very concept of an evil God, which to be fair, is probably they best bet for the argument's last leg to stand on.

    To get a good Anselm underway, I only have to imagine something. Maximally best is one way to do it. But maximally worst is another. I imagine a perfectly omniscient, omnipotent being who wishes only to cause maximal suffering in his sentient creations -- or whatever you would consider the epitome of evil.

    I don't accept that "hunger for power" is a defining pre-requisite for evil. One can seek power to do good, implying that seeking power is a morally neutral activity. Also would you claim that an evil being, once it had acquired maximum power available to it, would suddenly become less evil? That doesn't ring true to me either. Evil God could be all powerful, and evilly hold on to all his power. He might actually want to give up some of his power temporarily, because when his creatures commit evil of their own free will, then the suffering that follows is so much worse for them and so much more evilly delicious for him. He gives candy to a baby just so he can take it away.

    His omniscience needn't be an impediment either. Perhaps he hates himself. Or perhaps, in his omniscience, he knows that his creations are not like him -- we are so weak, you see. Anyway, you can't assume to know what Evil God knows, or why he does what he does. Evil God works in mysterious ways. (That's why I'm so glad he isn't real.)

    But really it doesn't matter. Under the rules of the Anselm game, I need only be able to imagine such a being as being the epitome of X where X=evil, and his maximal quality ontologically does the rest. Just add Anselm and it makes it's own existence. That used to disprove Anselm 1.0, case closed. But in Anselm 2.0 you get a new problem, Pandora.

  8. if god does in fact exist, why is there more suffering and poverty in the world than joy wealth and abundance of all human joys?