Claim: Stephen Hawking has three arguments against God 22


images-5Over at the Christian Post is a blog entry that claims that Stephen Hawking has exactly three arguments against god. This all comes to me as a bit of a surprise because I’m not actually aware of him making any “no-god” assertions at all, but that instead he has simply confirmed that he himself does not believe and also as a scientist he can explain the universe without recourse to a “god did it” claim.

So let’s take a quick peek anyway and see what we have.

In a recent exchange with a Spanish journalist, physicist Stephen Hawking affirmed again that he was an atheist and asserted that a supernatural Creator is not necessary to answer the foundational philosophical question posed long ago by philosopher/mathematician Gottfried Leibniz: “why do we have something rather than nothing?”

Nope, that’s wrong, that is not at all what he said, and so it is very dishonest to claim it, the actual exchange played out as follows …

En mi segunda pregunta, le pido que me aclare su postura sobre Dios y la religión, que ha generado un intenso debate entre sus lectores. Por un lado, al final de Historia del Tiempo, escribió que si algún día lográramos esa «Teoría del Todo», conoceríamos «la mente de Dios». Pero posteriormente en su polémico libro El gran diseño, afirmó que el Universo puede crearse «de la nada, por generación espontánea», y que la idea de de Dios «no es necesaria» para explicar su origen. Le pregunto, ante esta aparente contradicción, si cambió su opinión en este terreno, y si se considera agnóstico o ateo. 

Su rotunda respuesta deja muy claro que aunque muchos han llegado a calificar como «un milagro» el hecho de que Hawking siga vivo, medio siglo después de que se le diagnosticara una enfermedad cuya esperanza de vida suele ser de un par de años, el astrofísico rechaza de plano todas las creencias religiosas: «En el pasado, antes de que entendiéramos la ciencia, era lógico creer que Dios creó el Universo. Pero ahora la ciencia ofrece una explicación más convincente. Lo que quise decir cuando dije que conoceríamos ‘la mente de Dios’ era que comprenderíamos todo lo que Dios sería capaz de comprender si acaso existiera. Pero no hay ningún Dios. Soy ateo. La religión cree en los milagros, pero éstos no son compatibles con la ciencia».

And that was the totality of the entire exchange on the topic of belief (here is a translation) …

In my second question, I ask me to clarify his stance on God and religion, which has generated an intense debate among its readers.On one hand, the end of History of Time, wrote that if one day we managed this “theory of everything” would know “the mind of God.” But later in his controversial book The Grand Design, said that the universe can be created “out of nothing, out of nowhere,” and that the idea of God is “not necessary” to explain its origin.I wonder, given this apparent contradiction, if he changed his mind in this area, and if deemed agnostic or atheist.

Their resounding answer is very clear that although many have come to describe as “a miracle” that Hawking is still alive, half a century after being diagnosed with a disease whose life expectancy is usually a couple of years, the astrophysics rejects all religious beliefs: “In the past, before we understood the science was logical to believe that God created the universe But now science offers a more convincing explanation.. What I meant when I said I would know ‘the mind of God’ was that we would understand all that God would be able to understand if any exist. But there is no God. I am an atheist. Religion believes in miracles, but they are not supported by science. “

But let’s address this false claim claim anyway.

Argument 1 – It’s an appeal to the future

He is making a straw man assertion as follows …

Hawking’s first argument against God can be summarized by saying that God is simply unnecessary; that the idea of a Creator has historically been substituted for true knowledge about reality, but today we know better. Hawking writes, “Ignorance of nature’s ways led people in ancient times to invent gods to lord it over every aspect of human life.”

This is the “God of the gaps” contention, which states that science has now filled past gaps in human’s knowledge of how the universe works and any remaining holes in that fabric will be mended by future discoveries.

The last part of the argument should be recognized by those who have studied logic as the “appeal to the future” fallacy, which says that someday evidence will be discovered to justify a person’s current position. But what about the core contention being presented here?

Nope, this is nonsense. There are indeed things we do know and can now explain that were once attributed to gods. There are also things we do not know yet, and so we have an unknown. It is true to think that one day we might have an answer, but to assert that this is an “appeal to the future” fallacy is quite bizarre.

If we do not know, then we do not know,  and neither does he know, because asserting “god did it” is not a credible alternative, there is no logical fallacy in play here. He appears to be suggesting that because there is something we do not know the answer just must be a god, and that truly is a fallacy known as an appeal to ignorance.

He plays it out like this …

the laws of science can certainly explain the way my computer works and the various mechanisms and causes that went into making it (the ‘how’), but such explanations don’t negate the need for the agent/efficient cause that designed it, which answers the “why my computer exists” question.

Indeed yes, he is essentially saying … “something must have caused everything, I have no evidence for what that was, therefore my specific Juedo-Christian god concept did it” … ta-da. To which one can only ask, “how do you know?”, and quickly discoverer that the evidence for this claim is exactly zero. We might also ask, “what caused this god?” because his question implies a rule that he has decided upon, that everything has a cause, and suddenly we discover this rule is broken and this invented god answer has no cause, and so the basis for that claim is not only exactly zero, but also has no rational foundation at all.

Argument 2 – Well the universe is here, so it must have been a god … right?

Hawking is affirming an eternal universe or eternal multiverse (an ensemble of universes), which is definitely one of the only two possible choices for existence, the other being God. 

Really? …the “only” other choice is a god.

First, when he says “the universe can and will create itself from nothing”, the “nothing” he’s talking about isn’t the standard definition of the word (i.e. “no thing”, non-being). Instead, he’s very much referring to “something”, in this case gravity, space, a quantum vacuum, and a set of laws at work referred to as M-Theory.

You can tell that this guy is really not a physicist because no, Stephen Hawking is not claiming that “nothing” = gravity and space.

Second, this “thing” can very correctly be referenced as an uncaused cause…much the same as God. 

Nope.

So what is going on here is all the usual religious hand-waving. For the record M-Theory is in reality a hypothesis, and not a proven fact and at best, might (or might not) provide a framework for developing a unified theory of all of the fundamental forces of nature.

Right now, we simply do not know, and that is, if you are truly going to be honest, all you can state. To start claiming that it is a scientific truth when it is no such thing and to then start using it as a basis for babbling about uncaused causes as if it was an observational fact, is very dishonest.

Argument 3 – Magic is real

Is he really asserting that magic is real?

Sadly yes …

Hawking believes that natural laws cannot be “violated” in any way, and thus the God of the Bible who is reported to perform miracles cannot exist. But why must this be the case? Why can’t the God who created the universe and all its natural laws suspend them when He chooses?

Well, there are a couple of reasons, but mainly because this god does not exist. The claim here is that there is a god that will intervene and suspend the laws of physics – now that is something that could be measured and demonstrated, but so far the actual objective and independently verifiable evidence for this is exactly zero, and until that changes in any meaningful way, then this is pure fantasy.

Conclusion

In the end the author of this article is pretending to know things that he does not actually know at all, and is making assertions on the basis of no evidence at all – he asserts that he has the “knowledge of the truth” and yet has no evidence at all to establish such a claim.

He finishes off by pointing at an article by John Lennox and claims that within it Stephen Hawking has been debunked …but no, that is simply yet another guy who also believes in magic and has no evidence at all.

Interweaving what are essentially religious claims with some sciency sounding stuff and associating Stephen Hawking with it all might indeed befuddle some, but such slight of hand is simply incandescent vapours and translucent surfaces. (Smoke and Mirrors).


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22 thoughts on “Claim: Stephen Hawking has three arguments against God

  • John

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for your reply.

    I agree some religions are indeed tied to a specific geography or culture, but not all of them.

    Some religions flourish in amazingly diverse geographies and despite cultural differences.

    I agree with you science cannot prove the nonexistence of anything, not just God. However why does it not bother with implausible things, which are clearly improbable (which are also unproven) ?, well because they are so unlikely to prove to the contrary. (Russell’s teapot case).

    One key flaw with Russell teapot which immediately makes it clearly silly is the need for an external intelligent agent which must have left the teapot in outer space to begin with. The probabilities of that happening by random chance or other natural reasons is so low (without an external intelligent agent), that most scientist (even non believers) then safely assume it’s non existence without looking further.

    This is not the case of God, if you plan on using it with God then you need to prove that God is a known implausible entity or being, which you have not so far.

    Either way, you are free to go being a non believer, just as billions of people (the vast majority of humankind) will continue to believe in their religion despite the opposition of some people.

    I see you are already set on not believing, which I respect, although I do not share, therefore this will be my last comment, unless evidence is provided that God is a known implausible entity or being.

    Kind Regards,
    John

    • Dave Gamble Post author

      Fair enough John,

      In conclusion then, I have a couple of observations …
      1) You have not cited any evidence for a god claim, and confirm that you will never be able to do that – there really is no reason for me to accept things that cannot be verified.
      2) You are claiming things regarding god and appear to be asserting that a god concept is not implausible … yet with a complete lack of any data at all, I can only wonder how you know this.
      3) Despite asking several times, you have not actually explained why you personally believe that there is a god.
      4) You don’t get to shift the burden of proof to others, the god claim is wholly yours along with any associated attributes you feel should or should not be associated with the claim. It is not up to me to cite evidence that your god claim is implausible, it is up to you to cite evidence that it is, plausible, it’s your claim, not mine.

      In many ways you have my sympathy and I do in fact understand. The beliefs that prevail today have been naturally selected over many generations, and by their nature are very good at tapping into and leveraging human psychology, so much so, that they can blind us. Humanity is ever so prone to many cognitive biases and so that is why the only reliable means we have for determining what is actually true is good solid objective independently verified evidence, subjective human experiences can and do fool us all (and I do not exclude myself from that, I speak from experience).

      So I can only wish you well in all you do,

      Best Regards

  • John

    Hi Dave,

    Thank for your reply.

    Well, I think you also need religion to make sense and be reasonable, since I think most people cannot simply blindly believe for cultural or emotional reasons alone. Actually what really surprises me is how atheists or agnostic people continue to stand in their reasoning, despite having no good evidence or reasons for it (that indeed is what i would call blind faith on something). We have already proven that it is impossible to prove the non-existance of God, so atheism (disbelief in God) by it’s own nature immediately implodes by itself. At most you may be a non-believer (if you freely choose to), but that is as far as you can go.

    You mentioned
    //Side note: The folks over at answers in genesis, have a couple of pages up on the website in which they explain that both unicorns and fire breathing //flying dragons are quite real, they appear to seriously believe this, but then I suspect the vast majority of Christians would most probably find that to be a //tad eccentric.

    The existence or non existence of flying dragons and unicorns does not prove God does not exist or that it is unreasonable to belief in Him in any way, neither does it change in any way the core of the Christian belief which is what ultimately most christians would be really mindful of.

    Your argument is flawed as I mentioned before since you clearly start with known implausible things to begin with (that are also unproven) and follow that with another premise which clearly contradict the previous one (we can’t assume it’s non-existance…).

    When one premise contradict the previous one, I think we can both agree something is not right with the reasoning.

    If you plan on using this reasoning with God then you must prove that God is a known implausible entity or being.

    Kind Regards,
    John

    • Dave Gamble Post author

      Hi John,

      // Well, I think you also need religion to make sense and be reasonable, //
      Religion is in essence a cultural artefact, and so the specific belief that an individual holds tends to tell you a great deal about their geographical location. When I make the observation about people believing for cultural and emotional reasons, it is that specific cultural aspect that I refer to.

      // what really surprises me is how atheists or agnostic people continue to stand in their reasoning, despite having no good evidence or reasons for it (that indeed is what i would call blind faith on something). //
      This truly should not be a surprise, you have a god claim, yet offer no credible objective independently verifiable evidence, and confirm that none will ever be available, and so the claim is not believed – why would that lack of belief be a surprise? I confess that I find it surprising that you are surprised by this.

      // We have already proven that it is impossible to prove the non-existance of God, so atheism (disbelief in God) by it’s own nature immediately implodes by itself. //
      I agree that you cannot prove the non-existence of a God, and would add that the scope of that is not restricted, you cannot prove the non-existence of anything that does not exist. Russell’s teapot is of course the classical example, a thought experiment in which it is suggested that in orbit between Earth and Mars is a teapot. Without actually searching every possibly location (which is neither practical, nor possible), you simply cannot prove that it is not there.

      I should also point out that atheism is simply a lack of belief, and is not an alternative belief. If there is no good evidence for believing something, then the most rational position is to not believe … in other words, no disbelief in a god does not implode by itself, but rather stands robustly on the foundation that there is no evidence for the claim.

      // you clearly start with known implausible things to begin with //
      What leads you to think the assertion that there is a god is plausible?

      … and I still have no idea what personally convinces you that there is a god.

      Best Regards,

      Dave

  • Dave Gamble Post author

    Hi John,

    Belief in unicorns and dragons is indeed silly, we agree, and that of course is the point. The only real difference is that today a belief in unicorns and dragons is no longer popular, yet the belief in God still is. Clearly people often believe what they believe for cultural and also emotional reasons, and so I’d suggest that is why there is a prevailing religious belief.

    Side note: The folks over at answers in genesis, have a couple of pages up on the website in which they explain that both unicorns and fire breathing flying dragons are quite real, they appear to seriously believe this, but then I suspect the vast majority of Christians would most probably find that to be a tad eccentric.

    So anyway, getting back on track, the point of course is that the formula (as best as I understood it) works just as well for unicorns and dragons as it does for God, and yet clearly to assert “we can’t assume no unicorns, and since we have not detected them, therefore they are supernatural” is absurd, and so that indeed suggests that you can’t apply it to God either because it is not reliable mechanism.

    The foundation that much of this rests upon is that you appear to be starting with the assumption that there is a god and then working from that basis, so perhaps it might help if I understood what actually convinces you personally that there is a god?

    Best Regards,

    Dave

  • John

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for your reply.

    I think we can agree then that science is not able to directly prove or dismiss the existence of God.

    You have mentioned

    //For example, unicorns or flying dragons cannot and have not been detected scientifically. Since that does not imply their non-existence, therefore the //only logical possibility is to consider unicorns and flying dragons as supernatural beings … except it is not the only logical possibility.

    The problem with the argument you mention is attempting to consider it on par with a belief on God.

    I notice that you are using clearly implausible things to begin with (that are also unproven) which then ultimately lead to a non logical conclusion.

    Belief in unicorns or flying dragons (or other equivalents) seems silly because these things are so unlikely to exist in our Universe.

    We might not have direct sensory evidence of flying dragons or unicorns, but we have plenty of indirect evidence against it.

    This kind of thinking does not succeed in showing that unproven objects are unbelievable. At most, it succeeds in showing that objects known to be improbable are unbelievable. Well, I think we already knew that.

    Kind Regards,
    John

  • Dave Gamble Post author

    Hi John,

    OK, I understand what you are saying.

    I’d like to make the observation that we can use this formula for almost anything that anybody can dream up. For example, unicorns or flying dragons cannot and have not been detected scientifically. Since that does not imply their non-existence, therefore the only logical possibility is to consider unicorns and flying dragons as supernatural beings … except it is not the only logical possibility.

    I’m not asserting a no-god claim, I’m simply rejecting a god claim due to the lack of evidence.

    I do agree that if I was asserting a no-god claim, then the burden of proof would indeed be mine, but if I simply stick with the null hypothesis, then I have no burden of proof.

    Best Regards,

    Dave

  • John

    Hi Dave,

    You did claim (these are you exact words posted before)

    //What of course is common to all this is God, and so if we can resolve the issue of God (is there, or is there not a god?), then that resolution would //quite naturally, almost by default, resolve all the other issues, and so what I’d like to suggest is that perhaps the key here is this one.

    //As you can see, I take an empirically based approach to things, and so in that context I would be asking myself this … Is there any truly objective and //independently verifiable evidence that confirms that there really is a God?

    Which I have mentioned that no such evidence exist, however the real issue here is that this does not imply his non-existence.
    For that deduction to be valid then a reliable and scientifically proven method must be in place to detect God to begin with. Since that has not been provided by you so far the possibility of missing His presence due to our scientific instruments being insufficient or unreliable for this purpose remains.

    In conclusion science is therefore not a viable method to prove or disprove God’s existence since it only deals with the natural world.

    One logical possibility to unravel this discussion is to therefore consider God as a supernatural being (above and beyond nature).

    Kind Regards,
    John

  • John

    Hi Dave,

    You are also making a claim.

    You also have to defend it, for your claim to be valid and logical

    A scientifically proven methodology to reliably and consistently observe and detect God must be provided.

    Otherwise the fact that we cannot observe God scientifically and directly does not imply his non-existence since you cannot go away from the possibility that our instruments used to “observed and detect” God are insufficient or unreliable for this purpose.

    Why supernatural will always remain a possibility for God? Well because if He was not supernatural science would be able to detect His presence.

    Kind Regards,
    John

    • Dave Gamble Post author

      What claim is it you think that I am making?

      And regarding the reason that you think the supernatural is real … I think that you are saying that the supernatural is real because god is real, therefore the supernatural is real, is that correct?

  • Dave Gamble Post author

    The burden of proof for any and all claims always rests firmly with those that assert a claim, there is no requirement to disprove a claim. If there is no evidence at all, then the most rational logical position is the dismissal of the claim.

    Regarding the supernatural, what convinces you that there is a supernatural?

  • John

    Hi Dave,

    Some final thoughts to avoid misunderstandings…..

    //You mentioned:
    //As you can see, I take an empirically based approach to things, and so in that context I would be asking myself this … Is there any truly objective and //independently verifiable evidence that confirms that there really is a God?

    //Do you think there is anything that might satisfy that criteria for me?

    I replied:

    1.- Right from the beginning I mention that direct scientific measurable proof of God is not possible.

    Clarifying a bit more on this statement.

    This however does not prove God does not exist though, since there is alway the possibility that our instruments used to “observed and detect” God are insufficient or unreliable for this purpose.

    One possibility if you allow me of why we cannot scientifically obtain direct evidence of God is because he is supernatural (beyond and above nature).

    Kind Regards,
    John

  • John

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for your reply.

    I understand your approach and I am open to debate, but always within reason, logic and scientific data to back it up. I must clarify I respect you personal decision to believe in God or not (regardless of which religion or other belief system you may choose to adhere).

    You mention that the key is to prove whether God exists or not. Right from the beginning I mention that direct scientific measurable proof is not possible at this point. Having said that we can take the only other approach which is to through science , reason and logic see if we can reasonable prove or disapprove a supreme intelligent being could or not exist.

    Here is a website with plenty of scientific reasons, logic and plain common sense of why it is scientifically possible for God to exist and scientifically impossible to dismiss God with all the available data so far (http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/is_god_real.html). I do not come up with theories or scientific data which might accommodate for the existence of God, science itself has proven all the theories, laws and our hypothesis which makes perfect sense if indeed there is a supreme intelligent being. i did not create that site, or it’s content another person did it, so you can rest assure I’m not the only one saying it is reasonable to say God does exist.

    Despite all the evidence in the universe ultimately nothing will convince someone who has decided not be convinced, in that case it would become not science but rather an ideology.

    Either way, I wish you the very best in this 2015.

    Kind Regards,
    John

  • John

    Hi Dave,

    thanks for your reply. I just wanted to clarify

    //These are all derived from our biological history, for example our moral reasoning is carried out by certain areas of the brain and
    //are not derived from a supernatural entity. (bit more on this coming up later)

    Indeed scientist have studied the human brain and know that some areas of it work once a person decides on a moral issue.

    This does not mean however that neuroscience has now become a moral decision arbiter who has the authority to tell us right from wrong on a universal basis.

    //Regarding Einstein and Erwin Schrodinger: they as any other human being (including Stephen Hawkings and Sam Harris) may make a mistake. However all of the evidence presented so
    far does not show that morality is scientifically based, no meaningful evidence has been proven to the contrary (although some people
    as Sam Harris have attempted to prove otherwise).

    Harris’s acceptance of pleasure or happiness as the standard of moral value sets his entire moral theory on a faulty foundation. Aside from purely physical sensations, pleasure and happiness are, as Ayn Rand points out, emotional states, which are consequences of our values, not justifications for them. “Emotions are the automatic results of man’s value judgments integrated by his subconscious.”15 Thus, neither pleasure nor happiness can serve as the standard of moral value.

    //cover to cover and even contains instructions on how you may beat your slaves, and whom you can and cannot own (even the NT … “Slaves obey //your masters”), so it may be worth ponder over the question of how you know that slavery is wrong. We even observe morality in other non-human //species, (here is a fun example : a monkey saving his friend, is this a monkey acting morally due to a religious belief or for some other more natural //reason

    Why should I agree slavery is wrong if after all there is no God right, so who is to tell me slavery is indeed wrong? No one, indeed this is precisely why Religion is needed rather than pure science. The Holy Bible does not endorse slavery.

    The idea that God or Christianity encourages or approves of slavery is shown to be false. In fact, anybody who was caught selling another person into slavery was to be executed. However, since voluntary slavery was widely practiced during biblical times, the Bible proscribes laws to protect the lives and health of slaves. Paul, the author of many of the New Testament writings, virtually ordered the Christian Philemon to release his Christian slave from his service to “do what is proper”. In addition, numerous verses from the New Testament show that God values slaves as much as any free person and is not partial to anyone’s standing before other people.

    // We even observe morality in other non-human species, (here is a fun example : a monkey saving his friend, is this a monkey acting morally due to a religious belief or for some other more natural reason

    There are some problems with this assessment. First of all, drawing conclusions about animal morality simply from external behavior reduces morality to conduct. Why should we accept that morality is exhaustively described by behavior? True morality entails non-behavioral elements, too, like intent and motive.

    One can’t infer actual moral obligations from the mere fact of a chimp’s conduct. One might talk descriptively about a chimp’s behavior, but no conclusion about morality follows from this. One can observe that chimps in community share food, and when they do they survive better. But you can’t conclude from the chimp, ought to share his bananas, and if he doesn’t, then he’s immoral because he hasn’t contributed to the survival of his community.

    Further, in fixing blame, we distinguish between an act done by accident and the very same act done on purpose. The behavior is the same, but the intent is different. We don’t usually blame people for accidents.

    //Regarding our true origin, that is explained by evolution,

    The problem is evolution theory has been proved wrong by too many scientist and scientific data.
    The second law of thermodynamics proves that organization cannot flow from chaos. Complex live organisms cannot rearrange themselves into an organism of a higher form as claimed by evolutionists. This is scientifically backwards according to the second law of thermodynamics, which has never been proven wrong. Scientists cannot have it both ways. The second law of thermodynamics is proven to be correct. Evolution lacks any scientific proof. The Theory of Evolution is contrary to a proven scientific truth.

    //regarding things such as purpose or destiny, these are indeed claims asserted by religious beliefs, but like most religious assertions, have no objective evidence or consistency. There is a vast diversity of conflicting variations of such “answers”, the ones that are accepted tend to be whatever the prevailing belief is and so such answers, when accepted, tend to very much be determined by an individuals geographical location.

    Naturally as many religions exist each of them will attempt to provide answers for our “final destination” since it is a proven fact we will eventually die.

    If we’re made to believe that water is composed of billions of molecules actually, but we’ve never saw it or observed it, still that scientific fact establishes a conceptual notion that yes, things must be that way.

    For example, if someone says “I blindly believe that people I see have brains inside their head. Sometimes I question why I so easily believe that which I cannot prove.” then the argument is flawed. If there are no brains because I see none, then there’ll be a boatload of critical questions, like how people think? How they coordinate their heartbeats? And so on. A lot of existential and historic observations, hereby, go crashing. So even if a scientific fact might not be directly observed by me, it still, rather indirectly, influences many other facts that might be observed by me (people actually think, in this context).

    //Regarding the big bang, within the physics community the big bang is simply the early expansion of the universe in it’s current form

    True but it also explains the origin of the universe and is so far the most widely accepted theory of how our universe started by the vast majority of the astronomers.
    Although others theories have appeared the massive ammount of evidence collected so far point toward the big bang theory rather than the other ones.
    In the future might the Big Bang Theory change to some other theory, maybe if sufficient evidence starts to pile up, but up until today that is not the case.

    //be the signatures of black holes colliding in a previous cosmic ‘aeon’ that existed before our Universe

    Existed before our Universe? So our universe did have a beginning, although I find it hard to imagine a black hole being outside from the Universe.
    What would have caused a black hole without a Universe? Where would it come from?

    • Dave Gamble Post author

      Hi John,

      Let’s try to unstack some of this discussion a bit.

      You believe in Creationism, and I get that, I understand that as a Christian this is indeed an idea that you accept.

      You also believe that the ultimate source for morality is God, and I also get that, and understand where you are coming from.

      What of course is common to all this is God, and so if we can resolve the issue of God (is there, or is there not a god?), then that resolution would quite naturally, almost by default, resolve all the other issues, and so what I’d like to suggest is that perhaps the key here is this one.

      As you can see, I take an empirically based approach to things, and so in that context I would be asking myself this … Is there any truly objective and independently verifiable evidence that confirms that there really is a God?

      Do you think there is anything that might satisfy that criteria for me?

      I understand the Creationism vs Evolution debates, and generally it has been my experience that they tend to go nowhere. If for example we sat down, went through it all, and reached a solution that was satisfactory to both of us, then I suggest it would not really address the core question.

      For example …
      – If I persuaded you that the evidence for evolution was compelling, and you accepted it as valid, then (as many Christians do), I speculate that your stance would become “That is how God did it”, and so the core issue remains unresolved.
      – If on the other hand, you persuaded me that Evolution was wrong, and I accepted the arguments presented, then that simply puts me back to the pre 1859 position of having no explanation for the diversity of life, and so I’d simply be back in the position of attempting to form a testable hypothesis that explains everything, including the new information, and so once again the core issues remains unresolved.

      That observation is what motivates me to attempt to unstack our conversation and decompose it back the the one fundamental question that can potentially resolve everything else.

      Best Regards,

  • John

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for your reply.

    Below some clarification I wanted to make on your reply.

    //// Moral judgments, aesthetic judgments, decisions about applications of science, and conclusions about the supernatural are outside the realm of science //

    //These are all derived from our biological history, for example our moral reasoning is carried out by certain areas of the brain and are not derived from a supernatural entity.

    I acknowledge scientist can and have studied human brain activity while a person make a moral choice, but this scientific evidence does not answer the truth about universal human values, nor does it provide them.

    Regarding the Erwin Schrodinger quote: I do not find any other meaning to his quote, if it is taken out of context please provide the reference to the context to check.

    Regarding the Einstein quote: I never said Einstein could not make a mistake (just as Hawkings might be wrong with remarks of non-existence of God)
    However he as Schrodinger knew the limits of science and so far no convincing evidence has come up to contradict it, if it does I’m open to discuss it within reason and logic.

    You mentioned: To illustrate that point, consider morality, it is an attribute of our culture and has simply been claimed by religion. You would agree (I assume and hope) that slavery is wrong, and yet the christian source for morality, the bible,

    Throughout human history religion has always been present, and it is unlikely to go away no matter how much some people would rather have it that way. Societies and civilization have always been defined by a core system of beliefs (e.g. religion), so that individuals may know how to behave, interact and overall live their lives in a meaningful way.

    The christian source for morality now that you mention it is not The Holy Bible per se (although is an important element of it) but rather God himself, who through The Holy Scripture teaches us right from wrong among other things. There is a site I think you might want to look into (http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/slavery_bible.html) I did not write it another person did.

    He offers the following reasoning of why neither God nor the Bible support slavery.

    (Taken from the above site).

    First, we must recognize that the Bible does not say God supports slavery. In fact, the slavery described in the Old Testament was quite different from the kind of slavery we think of today – in which people are captured and sold as slaves. According to Old Testament law, anyone caught selling another person into slavery was to be executed:

    “He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.” (Exodus 21:16)

    So, obviously, slavery during Old Testament times was not what we commonly recognize as slavery, such as that practiced in the 17th century Americas, when Africans were captured and forcibly brought to work on plantations. Unlike our modern government welfare programs, there was no safety-net for ancient Middle Easterners who could not provide a living for themselves. In ancient Israel, people who could not provide for themselves or their families sold them into slavery so they would not die of starvation or exposure. In this way, a person would receive food and housing in exchange for labor.

    Although there are rules about slavery in the Bible, those rules exist to protect the slave. Injuring or killing slaves was punishable – up to death of the offending party.1 Hebrews were commanded not to make their slave work on the Sabbath,2 slander a slave,3 have sex with another man’s slave,4 or return an escaped slave.5 A Hebrew was not to enslave his fellow countryman, even if he owed him money, but was to have him work as a hired worker, and he was to be released in 7 years or in the year of jubilee (which occurred every 50 years), whichever came first.6 In fact, the slave owner was encouraged to “pamper his slave”.7

    The Mokey morality issue has also been dismissed.

    There are some problems with this assessment. First of all, drawing conclusions about animal morality simply from external behavior reduces morality to conduct. Why should we accept that morality is exhaustively described by behavior? True morality entails non-behavioral elements, too, like intent and motive.

    One can’t infer actual moral obligations from the mere fact of a chimp’s conduct. One might talk descriptively about a chimp’s behavior, but no conclusion about morality follows from this. One can observe that chimps in community share food, and when they do they survive better. But you can’t conclude the chimp, ought to share his bananas, and if he doesn’t, then he’s immoral because he hasn’t contributed to the survival of his community.

    Further, in fixing blame, we distinguish between an act done by accident and the very same act done on purpose. The behavior is the same, but the intent is different. We don’t usually blame people for accidents: The boy didn’t intend to trip the old lady.

    We also give attention to the issue of motive. We withhold blame even if the youngster tripped the old lady on purpose if the motive is acceptable: He tripped her to keep her from running in front of a train.

    Motive and intent cannot be determined simply by looking at behavior

    Source: http://www.str.org/articles/monkey-morality-can-evolution-explain-ethics#.VKbXuSvF8wA

    //Regarding our true origin, that is explained by evolution

    The only problem is that evolution has not shown scientific evidence to support it here is another site with plenty of reasons of why that theory is wrong

    9 Scientific Facts Prove the “Theory of Evolution” is False – See more at: http://humansarefree.com/2013/12/9-scienctific-facts-prove-theory-of.html

    and another one says

    The reality is, evolutionary doctrine is built on false assumptions and poor science. It is the greatest deception in modern history.Why do secular scientists continue to adhere to a false evolutionary doctrine? This site provides the reasons, and summarizes much of the evidence for scientific creation. I ask any skeptical person to give this site an impartial reading before dismissing the scientific creationist viewpoint (http://www.creationsciencetoday.com/)

    Regards

    • Dave Gamble Post author

      Hi John,

      So in response to your clarifications …

      There is no clear evidence that when it comes to anything within your list that there is something supernatural going on and that they are not all products of brain chemistry. There is of course much we do not yet know, but with each passing day our understanding grows.

      Regarding the Schrodinger quote, what he actually wrote within “Nature and the Greeks” in 1954 …

      “I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is deficient. It gives a lot of factual information, puts all our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.”

      He discusses attributes that relate to the human experience. It all comes down to our perceptions and what human consciousness actually is – which right now is an unknown, but we do clearly know that all this is very much a product of brain chemistry. Mess with the physical brain and you can in turn scupper any and all of these human perceptions, for example people who hear or taste colours.

      There is no hard limit so far on the table that dictates that there are specific things that we cannot deploy a scientific methodology to examine, and as far as I am aware there is no other methodology that has proven itself to be reliable and objective.

      Regarding the persistence of religious beliefs … I agree that our history is full of such beliefs, but this is not due to them being true, but rather because we have been naturally selected to be like this. There exists a vast diversity of mutually exclusive beliefs.

      Regarding the claim that it is god who dictates morality … and the bible teaches us right from wrong … I would repeat that this guide to morality explicitly teaches how you may beat your slaves (if they do not die within a few days of a beating then that is apparently OK). This, and much else, is quite frankly morally abhorrent, I would also argue that any form of slavery is morally abhorrent, not just the 17th century variation.

      /// One can observe that chimps in community share food, and when they do they survive better. But you can’t conclude the chimp, ought to share his bananas, and if he doesn’t, then he’s immoral because he hasn’t contributed to the survival of his community. //

      You are beginning to perhaps understand where our morality evolved from … it gives us a distinct survival advantage.

      // The only problem is that evolution has not shown scientific evidence to support it //

      This is a religious claim, evolution is well supported by multiple pillars of evidence, and over 160 years of research. 99.998% of life-science scientists on the planet today accept the evidence (the other 0.002% do not for religious reasons, and this is not driven by a lack of evidence). If anybody does indeed feel that evolution can be refuted, then all that is required is to publish the evidence in a credible peer-reviewed science journal, and collect a nobel prize.

      To untangle all this, the key question to ask is … is there a god, yes or no? Resolve that, and I’d suggest that all the other issues will naturally fall into place.

      I personally find no independently verifiable objective evidence that confirms that there is a god, and so that perhaps explains why I find it difficult to accept the associated attributes … source for morality, creationism, etc…

      I do hope that helps you to understand where I’m coming from,

      Best Regards,

      DG

  • John

    //The “knowledge” that religion has contributed to our understanding of reality is exactly zero

    Moral judgement, our purpose of being alive, ethics, our purpose of existence as human being, our true origin and ultimate destiny, etc

    All of these issues are part of our reality, where science has been silent and religion has been needed to complete our understanding.

    // It has also been proven that the universe is not eternal it has a beginning a starting point (bing bang theory) //

    This is simply not the case, you do not appear to understand that the big bang is simply a model that describes the early expansion of the universe from a singularity, and nothing more.

    The Big Bang theory is an effort to explain what happened at the very beginning of our universe. Discoveries in astronomy and physics have shown beyond a reasonable doubt that our universe did in fact have a beginning (see below link for evidence support). Prior to that moment there was nothing; during and after that moment there was something: our universe. The big bang theory is an effort to explain what happened during and after that moment.

    You may want to check the webpage http://www.harvardhouse.com/Scientific_Evidence_for_Beginning.htm where scientific evidence discovered so far strongly supports the beginning of the universe through the Big Bang Theory rather than an eternal universe without a beginning or an end. It also strongly suggest that the universe will eventually end. An eternal universe is lacking from meaningful scientific evidence to support it and contradict that the universe has a beginning.

    • Dave Gamble Post author

      Hi John,

      Thanks for taking the time to come back with a well thought out rebuttal, much appreciated.

      Regarding the list of things that science does not provide

      // Moral judgments, aesthetic judgments, decisions about applications of science, and conclusions about the supernatural are outside the realm of science //

      These are all derived from our biological history, for example our moral reasoning is carried out by certain areas of the brain and are not derived from a supernatural entity. (bit more on this coming up later)

      Regarding the Erwin Schrodinger quote:

      I recognise it as a paraphrase of something he did once write, sadly those are not his exact words. The quote is rather popular on various christian websites, and is an example of quote-mining what he actually wrote out of context. Put it back into context and read what he actually wrote and you soon find he was not saying what you thing he was saying at all.

      Regarding the Einstein quote:

      Einstein was not religious at all (but that is perhaps a separate debate). Regarding his comment on morality, there are many behavioural psychologists who would disagree with him as would Sam Harris. Einstein was a physics subject matter expert, but nothing else, and often when he strayed outside the psychics domain he turned out to express opinions there were very wrong … for example his assertion against plate tectonics was wrong … http://www.flem-ath.com/flemath/was-albert-einstein-silly/ Being Einstein does not make him right about everything he ever uttered an opinion about.

      OK, back to that list …

      // Moral judgement, our purpose of being alive, ethics, our purpose of existence as human being, our true origin and ultimate destiny, etc //

      The claim is that these are all things that religion has contributed, but this is simply not something I would agree with.

      To illustrate that point, consider morality, it is an attribute of our culture and has simply been claimed by religion. You would agree (I assume and hope) that slavery is wrong, and yet the christian source for morality, the bible, is very much a pro-slavery text from cover to cover and even contains instructions on how you may beat your slaves, and whom you can and cannot own (even the NT … “Slaves obey your masters”), so it may be worth ponder over the question of how you know that slavery is wrong. We even observe morality in other non-human species, (here is a fun example : a monkey saving his friend, is this a monkey acting morally due to a religious belief or for some other more natural reason https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSrnbeYIm6o )

      Regarding our true origin, that is explained by evolution, regarding things such as purpose or destiny, these are indeed claims asserted by religious beliefs, but like most religious assertions, have no objective evidence or consistency. There is a vast diversity of conflicting variations of such “answers”, the ones that are accepted tend to be whatever the prevailing belief is and so such answers, when accepted, tend to very much be determined by an individuals geographical location.

      Regarding the big bang, within the physics community the big bang is simply the early expansion of the universe in it’s current form. Beyond that there is much research and a considerable degree of speculation. For example one avenue of research suggests that the radiation left over from the Big Bang might, in fact, be the signatures of black holes colliding in a previous cosmic ‘aeon’ that existed before our Universe. (If curious, you can find the paper on that here on arXiv.org http://arxiv.org/abs/1011.3706 ). In summary … early expansion of current form … yes, tons of evidence, but actual ultimate origin of what we might term reality … that is at this point in time an unknown, and the CMB would appear to suggest not.

      Regarding the ending of the universe, once again, recent experimental evidence (namely the observation of distant supernovae as standard candles, and the well-resolved mapping of the cosmic microwave background) has shown that the expansion of the universe is not being slowed down by gravity but rather accelerating, so no big crunch is on the cards at all.

      In summary: there are things we do indeed know and have knowledge of, and also there are clearly things we do not know … yet. I personally do not find any evidence for anything supernatural, nor do I find any evidence for any of the commonly presented religious claims, which assert knowledge claims, and yet have no basis for doing so.

  • John

    // 1.- Science and scientific explanations will never be enough to fully know and understand the universe. It is an undisputed fact that there will always be a “unknown” around the corner no matter how much science advances. //

    You have no way of knowing if this is or is not true, you simply cannot claim that such a statement is factual.

    Reply: Here is my prove of things science will not provide:

    Moral judgments, aesthetic judgments, decisions about applications of science, and conclusions about the supernatural are outside the realm of science, but that doesn’t mean that these realms are unimportant. In fact, domains such as ethics, aesthetics, and religion fundamentally influence human societies and how those societies interact with science. Questions that arise within these domains cannot be resolved by science.

    Erwin Schrodinger (one of the great modern scientists) illustrated the limitations of science when he said; “Science puts everything in a consistent order but is ghastly silent about everything that really matters to us: beauty, color, taste, pain or delight, origins, God and eternity.” 1

    Einstein understood the limitations of science to help us decide if something is good or evil. “You are right to speak of the moral foundations of science, but you cannot turn around and speak of the scientific foundations of morality.” and “every attempt to reduce ethics to scientific formulae must fail”

    So yes, science is indeed limited in many of the most important issue that all humans want answers to .- What is my purpose of life? Are my actions good or bad? , etc

    I’ll write more arguments on the other issues you found a bit later. I must also clarify I am not enforcing anyone to believe in God, since I fully understand it is ultimately a free decision each person is entitled to either take or ignore, however that does not mean that there is absolutely no reasoning behind the existence of God.

  • John

    Many others have mentioned why Hawkings is wrong on his reasoning with the non-existence of God, here are some arguments I have found of why indeed all the circumstantial evidence we have so far points toward a needed existence of a supreme inteligent being (“God).

    1.- Science and scientific explanations will never be enough to fully know and understand the universe. It is an undisputed fact that there will always be a “unknown” around the corner no matter how much science advances. Therefore it is safe to say that science is indeed limited on how it can help us to understand the universe and will always be incomplete as the only tool used to rely upon, something else is needed beyond science. One possible alternative to fill in the gap is indeed religion, which is precisely the same as man previously needed to do. Basically our need to fill in the gaps left by science with religion has not changed even though science has advanced so much. Our more through understanding of our universe simply has given us an even stronger case that indeed a supreme intelligent being does exist.

    It is an undisputed fact that all things are caused by something. It has also been proven that the universe is not eternal it has a beginning a starting point (bing bang theory) and it will have as all finite things have an end. It is quite obvious something must have caused the bing bang to occur. And the list of causes cannot go back infinitely otherwise the bing bang would have been unreachable. Therefore there must be a eternal primal cause which was not caused by anyone. I cannot now prove scientifically this eternal primal cause is God, however one of the core belief of christianity is that God is indeed eternal and the creator of the universe (primal cause), once again scientific analysis for the creation of the universe demands a need of a supreme cause which was not caused by anything or anyone.

    • Dave Gamble Post author

      // 1.- Science and scientific explanations will never be enough to fully know and understand the universe. It is an undisputed fact that there will always be a “unknown” around the corner no matter how much science advances. //

      You have no way of knowing if this is or is not true, you simply cannot claim that such a statement is factual.

      // One possible alternative to fill in the gap is indeed religion, which is precisely the same as man previously needed to do. //

      The “knowledge” that religion has contributed to our understanding of reality is exactly zero

      // Our more through understanding of our universe simply has given us an even stronger case that indeed a supreme intelligent being does exist. //

      This also is not factually true, the complete reverse is the case. Things previously attributed to god have time after time, when fully understood, have been discovered to be quite natural and no god was required.

      // It has also been proven that the universe is not eternal it has a beginning a starting point (bing bang theory) //

      This is simply not the case, you do not appear to understand that the big bang is simply a model that describes the early expansion of the universe from a singularity, and nothing more.

      // there must be a eternal primal cause which was not caused by anyone. //

      This conflicts with your previous statement where you claim “all things are caused by something”. You also don’t get to claim, in essence, “here is something I do not really understand, therefore god”, on the basis of no evidence at all. In taking that step you are simply making stuff up.

      // I cannot now prove scientifically this eternal primal cause is God, //

      That is indeed correct, you can’t, and the reason you can’t is because the claim has no evidence at all, it is a complete fantasy.

      You are making lots of knowledge claims here, yet you have no evidence at all for any of them, so how do you know all this to be true if there is no evidence for any of it?