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Stephen Hawking's Grand Design

Physicist Stephen Hawking and a Cal Tech colleague weigh in on science, the ultimate questions, and God.

Stephen Hawking in Geneva, Switzerland, Sept. 15, 2009. (AP)

Physicist Stephen Hawking got the world’s attention a long time ago.  The brilliant scientist, trapped in wheel chair and Lou Gehrig’s disease, whose mind encompassed the cosmos.

In “A Brief History of Time”, Hawking laid out what we knew of the universe in compelling imagery and metaphor.

Now he’s back, with physicist Leonard Mlodinow, for a cosmic update.  Not one universe out there, but many, they say.  And no need now for God to explain the origin of everything.  Science, they say, will do it.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guest:

Leonard Mlodinow, co-author, with Stephen Hawking, of “The Grand Design.” Mlodinow is a physicist at the California Institute of Technology and author of “The Drunkard’s Walk.” Because of his physical limitations and the live format, we will only hear Hawking via pretaped audio.

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  • http://cool.com Joe

    Go Hawking!

  • gemli

    Of course, believers will counter with the argument that science may deal with the How, but religion deals with the Big Questions, such as “Why are we here,” and “What is the meaning of life?” It seems believers feel that raising these questions is answer enough, as they’re never really answered. There may be satisfaction in the pondering, but science has done a lot more than just ponder for the last few centuries. Thanks to science, we live in a world with modern medicine, antibiotics and vaccines, life spans of 80 years, and a general reduction of the abject misery that people have lived in for millennia.

    God must have heard many prayers, when lives were brutal and short, when 30 years of age was considered old, and when one child in five survived into adulthood. But miraculously, when penicillin was added to prayer, things started to improve. People prayed in the 1950’s for God to protect their children against the polio epidemic, but the prayers were apparently unheard until the polio vaccine arrived.

    If we wait for deities to come from the sky to solve our problems, we’ll have a long wait. If history is a guide, the wait is shorter when people bother to think, question, and understand. I’m thankful that there are scientists like Hawking and Mlodinow who are materially contributing to our understanding of the world.

  • joshua

    If the universe is expanding until it reaches a point that it stops expanding and implodes, condenses, explodes and starts expanding again, it still exists in an infinite space–it has to right–I can’t imagine a wall. And even if there is a wall–there must be something on the other side. So when we talk about the universe we don not really talk about space. Space must be infinite, and if it is–maybe other universes are expanding from multiple directions, and imploding…or maybe the universe is contained in a cell and their are infinite cells, levels and dimensions behaving in similar or dissimilar ways. What if our universe is expanding, but a parallel universe in a cell beneath us is NOT. Perhaps our universe is defective. An exploding universe. An atomic explosion of colossal cosmic proportions, or a fire, a cell under attack from intense heat or microwaves. What is beyond the infinite cells? What if similar universes exist on a sub-atomic level inside human cells? What if our universe is part of being that exists in some larger world. What if that being is killed in a horrible way? if it dies? What if Horton hears a who?

  • Boone

    Good points, gemli. Woody Allen put it slightly differently:

    “The important thing, I think, is not to be bitter. You know, if it turns out that there is a God, I don’t think that He’s evil. I think that the worst you can say about Him is that, basically, He’s an underachiever.”

    I haven’t read Hawking’s new book, and I doubt I will. He is a remarkable scientist, but not a great author, and there are so many other great scientist-authors and science writers out there: Leon Lederman, Murray Gell-Mann, Frank Wilczek, Helen Quinn, James Kaler, Janna Levin, Alex Vilenkin, Kip Thorne, Sean Carroll, Tony Rothman… The list is very long.

  • Folmkus

    I loved that list, Joshua. I like trying to push the boundaries of imagining what’s out there, then realizing that all of our imaginations are probably insufficient. There are so many unknown unknowns – there may be fundamental aspects of reality out there that are stranger than any sci fi ever dreamt up.

  • http://www.venturacommenter.org F. William Bracy

    Since there is no God, and since most individuals cannot enter into discussions such as this without naming God, we (and Hawking) cannot possibly be dealing with the “ultimate questions” — Who am I? … Why am I here? … Where am I going?

  • Gerald Fnord

    Joshua, the “Big Bang” model is not about an explosion within a larger space; rather, it’s about the rapid expansion _of_ a space, which need not have anything “outside” of it.

    Perhaps you can’t imagine there not being an infinite space around it, and neither can I really, but that’s because our brains were designed to deal with a world much, much, much bigger than we are, so it’s very easy for us to believe that it must all go on forever. The maths involved, however, from which this model falls out, definitely do _not_ require the embedding of our 4-D universe in a 5-D hyperspace—you can do geometry and tensor calculus on an N-dimensional surface whether it’s embeddable at all or not.

    Two-dimensional beings living on the surface of a perfect sphere could potentially develop all the maths necessary to measuring things on their sphere without reference to their being “within” something else. If their sphere were expanding quickly enough, they could tell by things’ being further away from each other than
    expected—and since they lived and evolved on the surface of a sphere, if it were small enough relative to their size, they would _instinctively_ understand the finiteness of their world.

  • Jim

    Of course science will eventually answer the question of our origins.

    The mistake most religious believers make is that there must be intention (a reason) behind existence. Thus, it is *assumed* that there must be a reason for us to be here thinking about the “big questions”.

    But that assumption is completely unnecessary. For example, we don’t ask *why* water condenses out of humid air when that air is cooled in an intentional sense. It simply does(actually, the why can be described, but it is a scientific rather than intentional answer.) In this case, we see the silliness of requiring there to be ultimate reasons for phenomena that we observe.

    And so too this applies to the phenomena of our universe and our existence. Basically, humans have to outgrow the belief that there must be an intentional reason for them to exist.

  • Gerald Fnord

    gemli:
    I agree overall, but I think you’ve got childhood mortality rates a bit exaggerated…sources I’ve found, using Google, Inc.’s search-engine for the World-Wide Web, jibe, seem to suggest 30-50% mortality rates, which range gratified me because I remembered them as being ‘around 40%’—so “one child in 3/2s survived” would be closer to the facts. And it’s _really_ important that we never distortthe facts, as that’s the (loosely construed and broadly over-generalised) Other Side’s job (they don’t really need facts because they’ve got The Truth).

    Best to your cousin, balen.

  • Tom

    What is meant by Spontaneous Creation? Does it subsume the notion that our Universe is but one of Multiple Parallel Universes that came before ours, and the Multiple Parallel Universes acting in conjunction with Gravity was sufficient to give rise to our Universe?

  • HAL OF EAST BOSTON

    A LITTLE POEM BY STEPHEN CRANE

    A man said to the universe:
    “Sir I exist!”
    “However,” replied the universe,
    “The fact has not created in me
    A sense of obligation.”

  • millard_fillmore

    I hope that the discussion acknowledges that the concept of God as most commonly known – and the opposition to God’s existence – comes from the Abrahamic religions, esp. Christianity/Judaism.

    Not all religious thoughts and philosophies – and esp. non-Abrahamic ones – do not have the same/similar concept of God, and some like (Theravada) Buddhism are silent on that concept of who or what caused the origin of the universe.

  • Charlie Mc

    Scientific certitude is totally dependent upon repeatable observable phenomena, whether microcosmic or macrocosmic. Current cosmological theories point to an initial “singularity”, i.e., a point of NO DIMENSIONS, from which Space and Time, energy and matter, whether visible or not, evolved.
    Since there has been no evidence of a pre-existent God, isn’t Science unable to make any scientific statement to the contrary, i.e., that there is no God?

  • Gerald Fnord

    Jim:

    It’s funny that human beings, who for the most part have historically have not been intentionally created by each other, should feel the need for an intention.

    Maybe it’s because what “made our nut” as a species was the unprecedentedly large and varied use of tools: when you are transactionally surrounded by things which have been created by an intelligence for particular purposes—I mean that when they mediate nearly every aspect of your existence—it may become natural to see everything outside yourself that way.

    That’s another way of saying that the “Blind Watchmaker” argument says more about us than about the Universe; a watch is made by someone for someone’s use, and the fact that the argument has any traction at all is and indication that we’re making a category error in assuming that the Universe is similar in any way to that.

    Backing this up: the number of people who now see the Universe as a computer simulation (now THERE’s embedding for ya), or who believe that quantum mechanics were best understand in terms of information.

    Sorry to hog so much space today; blame me and the caffeine.

  • millard_fillmore

    Correction:
    Not all religious thoughts and philosophies – and esp. non-Abrahamic ones – have the same/similar concept of God, and some like (Theravada) Buddhism are silent on that concept of who or what caused the origin of the universe.

  • Edosa Eweka

    There is not such thing as an expanding universe – for where is it expanding into? The concept of expansion means that there must be a space (void) that an entity or thing is going to occupy. What then do you call that space (void)? I think the universe is rotating about an axis, and all that we see is an illusion. It is an illusion because we only think and see the universe in our own dimensions.

    There is no such thing as the ultimate question because the premise of the so-called ultimate question is false. Just imagine – for anyone to define a cup as half full, one must have a frame of reference – which is that the cup if half empty. This means that they are inter-related, having properties properties and cannot exist without the other. This is the same for the notion of somethingness (energy or matter) – it must be interrelated to nothingness (no energy or matter). The two must co-exist. The Big Bang cannot have happened, for if it really did happen, then what was in place before – a ‘nothingness or void’? Remember, you cannot have a notion of ‘nothingness or void’ without having the frame of reference of ‘somethingness’.

    Well this is my view.

  • http://www.venturacommenter.org F. William Bracy
    “the embedding of our 4-D universe in a 5-D hyperspace”

    You assume much, Mr. Fnord, but what is your level of understanding? You obviously assume that time is the Fourth Dimension, as do most amateur sci-fi fans. Time is not the Fourth Dimension … time is four dimensional. Review Einstein. Space is not space, and time is not time. Everything is space-time. There are three dimensions in space, and by definition also three dimensions in time. (6 so far) Where’s the 7th? It’s the inverse of time — T-zero. (NOTE: If there is such a thing as time, there is also such a thing as “no time.” Zero-space and zero-time both represent division by zero and yield infinity OR, if you prefer, eternity).

    You arrive at 5 as the number of dimensions. You’re right about one thing — 5 is a prime number. (So is 7, by the way) Without the number of dimensions being prime, the math yields harmonics in the system, leading to false conclusions like multiple universes, and worse still, the silliness of a parallel universe.

  • Steve T

    I find that common sense is what the common man lacks. The argument of God vs evolution. is a non argument. Evolution proves the universe was created, as the bible talks of the evolution of man.

    The thing I find confusing is that truth can be proven by mathematics, but we can’t prove our Godly connection to our spirituality we just know it’s there.
    But when you consider the mind that has the gift of reason, which make it possible to do mathematics, also makes it possible to believe in spirituality.
    Unfortunately it also allows us to believe a lie.

    We know the universe exists, and as man learns more of himself and the world he lives on he may eventually find the truth, and his real place in the universe.

    The thing I don’t find confusing is that what ever you may THINK don’t make it so. Until you can prove it.

  • Marcus Figment

    Where’s Stephen Hawking!!! This segment was sold as an interview including him…false advertising!!!

  • http://mdickson.net Michael Dickson

    Hawking is a great physicist. However, there is a distinction between physical theory and its interpretation (metaphysical implications). Alas, that distinction is being elided here.

    Science speaks strongly to metaphysics, but metaphysical conclusions do not simply follow from scientific theory.

  • Brian

    Isaac Newton was not a “very rational physicist”. He was a religious zealot. He spent much of his life obsessed with Revelations. He believed there was a secret code in the Bible, which, if decoded, could tell exactly when the Apocalypse would happen. This was suppressed by the scientific community of the time, because Newton was a hero of science, and this would hurt the cause.

  • g

    Sweet! Thank you for playing the intro of original Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy! How fitting! :)
    I am grinning just listening to it.
    DNA, is another genius!

  • Paul Anderson

    Your guests still have only asserted that universes are created “out of nothing” via gravity and physics; yet they have not explained how that is possible. That is, what is their definition of nothing? Gravity is something. How can there be gravity when there is “nothing” for gravity to affect? Is the space into which universes are created nothing? When believers say that God created “out of nothing,” they mean that there was not any thing, not time, space, matter, energy, etc.

  • John

    God is too busy policing people’s sex lives, making sure people don’t eat pork, getting offended by cartoons, and protecting people after they sneeze to have created the universe.

  • Kristine Stopa

    I respect Dr. Hawking and his contributions…however, he misses the point. Science/physics/cosmology, and the existence of God DO go hand-in-hand. God created the Universe…and us humans. He/she gave us the brains to work w/ all the elements/thoughts to create technologies to take care of this planet, including each other. Next time, include Dr. Francis Collins, esteemed molecular biologist in this discussion GROUP. Thank you! K

  • Jim K.

    With all due respect to Stephen Hawking, no matter how far science takes us to understanding the nature of existence, there will always be the question of the cause of that which we have come to understand. There will always be the perpetual question of the uncaused cause. Thus one can never rule out the existence nor the role of at least one higher power, aka God(s).

  • John

    If it is impossible for the universe to have been created out of nothing without god, how can god have been created out of nothing?

  • Ann Stout

    One of the world’s greatest thinkers, St. Thomas Aquinas, called God the “uncreated Creator”. All of these things that make up the universe had to come from some beginning. Gravity had to exist in order to set in motion the development of universes. So, who created gravity?

    Additionally, God and science are not at odds with each other. There will be a day when science proves God, for those who need proof. God created science.

    By saying that God is no longer necessary to explain creation is putting God in a very small box, limiting His role in the creation of the universe. He does not intervene every day with what he set in motion — in a sense, it was complete when it began.

    God IS the uncreated creator and has existed from all time — even before gravity or the materials that combine to set all in motion.

  • g

    Speaking of HHGG…
    “Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindboggingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God. The argument goes something like this:
    `I refuse to prove that I exist,’ says God, `for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.’
    `But,’ says Man, `The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.’
    `Oh dear,’ says God, `I hadn’t thought of that,’ and promptly vanished in a puff of logic.”

  • jill mear

    PLEASE ask your guest to define nothing.

  • John C

    gemli:

    Your post reminds me of a bad joke I heard once.

    There is a huge flood and a very religious man refuses to leave his home. The man says “God will save me”. The waters rise and a neighbor comes by in a boat to rescue the man, the man says “God will save me”. The waters continue to rise and the man gets on his roof, another boat comes by to rescue the man but the man says “God will save me”. Waters rise more and the man stands on his chimney, a helicopter comes by to rescue him and the man says “God will save me”. Finally the waters rise and the man drowns.

    He gets to the pearly gates and says “God why did you not save me” and God says, “I sent you two boats and a helicopter, what more can I do?”

    So while you say God didn’t answer anyone’s prayers until penicillin came around, maybe that was the way God answered prayers…

    Also Joshua I enjoyed that list of what-ifs as well. Sometimes I think of infinite paradoxes like that. For instance we look at a cell break it into smaller parts we find atoms, we break down atoms we find protons, we break down protons we find quantum particles, we break down these and get to super strings, who is to say that is the lowest we can go. The same goes in the other direction. We have planets, then solar systems, then galaxies, then universes. My best guess is it goes further than that, perhaps there are clusters of universes separated by unimaginable distances…

    Who knows…

  • Charles

    Did he just say “Out of nothingness, something will appear”?

    Can we take a different run at that? Not intending to be combative or petty, but how is this answer not a cop out?

    Isn’t the space between the Nothing and the Something what the Mystery is all about?

  • Brian Donlon

    What happened to the theory of singularity from which the universe began? Singularity is not nothing.

  • Michael Hoffman

    Where did the laws of quantum mechanics come from that say something will come from nothing?

  • Dr. Phil Kousoubris

    “Time traveling tourists are either avoiding our time, or choose to avoid interacting with us socially, that’s why we are not aware of them. I don’t blame them.”

  • RBP

    Nineteenth-century Harvard mathematician Benjamin Pierce said, about the equation

    e to the ( i times pi ) minus one = zero,

    “Gentlemen, that is surely true, it is absolutely paradoxical; we cannot understand it, and we don’t know what it means. But we have proved it, and therefore we know it must be the truth,”

    It’s like that – or is it?

  • Dr. Phil Kousoubris

    Bet on ‘gravity’ accounting for dark matter/energy (from other multiverses), so that there can never, really, be nothing…

  • BrianC

    Some of this discussion can be annoyingly silly. The word “creation” is loaded with assumptions, and invites the questions, what came before creation? and created by whom. If you substitute “existence”, you would’nt ask, what existed before existence because existence is self-evident. This is all I need to know about whether God exists, because existence obviously exists.

  • Nick B.

    I love this kind of talk. I can understand maybe 10% of it at the point of hearing it, so I have to go over it again and again and it sinks in eventually (hopefully). It’s like listening to good jazz music, I get surprised on repeated listening.

  • http://www.acgray.tripod.com/savoringmypassage A. C. Gray

    Believe this discussion would have been better balanced if you had someone from the Institute of Creation Research to advocate the existence of God in the formula.

  • miro

    Hawking may be a brilliant physicist, but he is a mediocre, pop-philosopher.

    One should always be very wary of arguments from authority — one needs to evaluate his metaphysical or speculative pronouncements on their own merits and not on his reputation as a competent physicist.

    He spouts opinions of matters for which he has no data, e.g. whether we should fear aliens.

    Whenever you hear a physicist talking glibly about infinities in nature, be very suspicious — it’s a good marker that they are projecting their own fantasies well beyond what can possibly ever be measured. The problem is not that they have active imaginations, but that they don’t seem to distinguish between their own projections and physical theory that predicts empirical observations. Whether this is their own self-delusion or bombastic scientism is somewhat irrelevant.

    Miodinow makes reference to the Possible Worlds hypothesis of quantum mechanics (“other universes with other laws”), but this is an inherently untestable hypothesis (metaphysical in the bad sense of the word).

    Be very skeptical when a physicist says that quantum mechanics requires this or that — again, these arguments are often at their core arguments from authority (here the authority of quantum mechanics).

  • Gregg Bradley

    A question for Dr. Mlidibow:

    What within M theory has become falsifiable?

  • Linda

    I find it interesting that this “new” book is saying that time has no beginning and no end. The old testament says God has no beginning or end. Also, the book is saying we are all star dust. O.T. again, dust you are and to dust you shall return. Maybe man has know this all along.

  • ramani rangan

    The Indian Vedas presents to us that Maya(illusion)was the nature of the beginning of the universe and the appearance of its continuation as time/space. So Maya is pointing to a consciousness in a state of creativity. If we then take the human state of consciousness we are presented with the subjective creativity of the human mind. All observations, even using all the instruments that are and will be invented, still the subjective creativity of the human mind. So, my question is;
    If the universe(s)/multi-dimensions are understood to have had a beginning, is this beginning the creativity of “A”(supreme)conscioussness and our consciousness a part of its creativity? So is the nature of the universe is pure consciousness existing out of the time/space continuum and the observation of a developing progression starting with a primal evolvement is just part of designing a menu?

  • John McCluskey

    Hawkings ideas fit Nicely with Buddhist ideas of Emptiness and Karma. Nothing has a nature of it’s own. Buddhists also agree the idea of an omnipotent being is impossible.

    The Abidharmakosa written by Master Asanga circa 350 AD includes many of these ideas.

    J

  • Henry

    Fabulous program. Leonard Mlodinow has a fantastic gift of making complex ideas vivid and understandable. Kudos to Tom and his team.

  • Scott

    If time is or ever was variable, wouldn’t that change distance? In other words, could the big bang actually just be the beginning of time because if time suddenly grew greatly, the time it takes light to travel from one point to another, (our current measuring tool) would then greatly increase, making it appear that planets and systems quickly expanded in distance?

  • John

    Thanks for not having some nut from the Institute of Creation Research to advocate the existence of God in the formula. Not every show needs to be a debate with someone spouting reactionary talking points.

  • michael

    enjoying the show,

    thanks onpoint

  • http://www.venturacommenter.org F. William Bracy
    It takes only two words to dispel God — brain chemistry

  • miro

    This is getting worse and worse.

    All discussion of mutiverses with different laws lies outside the realm of physics as empirical science.

    The hypothesis is inherently empirically not-testable.
    This discussion is now purely in the realm of metaphysics (or theology), but the speaker is scientistically using the prestige of Physics to make implicit arguments from authority. Physics says this…., quantum mechanics requires this…….etc etc etc. This is soooooo bad!

    I’m not a professional philosopher, but this a realm in which we need good philosophy, not the scientistic pop-philosophy being proferred here.

  • Rand Tse-tung

    Dr Mlodinow, a better physicist than I ever was or will be (modulo some great life-extension tech, maybe), has made one error a few minutes back, with regard to fine-tuning:
    a version of the retrospective fallacy.

    That’s the fallacy that say, ‘I am very happy with my spouse, the odds were against our ever meeting, therefore the odds were against my ever being happy.’ Perhaps there are a few people out there for whom there is a One True Partner, but experience and observation render this to be unlikely the case for most people…so the proper statement is, ‘…therefore, the odds were against my being happy with this person; there’s probably a good chance that I might have been about as happy with someone else, though.’

    Terribly unromantic, yes, but the point must be taken: the conditions necessary for our kind of life in our kind of universe are very finely-tuned…but if they were different, it might well be the case that there would be some other form of life doing the equivalent of nattering on an equivalent of a keyboard on the equivalent of the first day of an equivalent of a new year.

  • http://shulmandesign.net Alan Shulman

    If gravity is essential for the spontaneous generation of the universe or universes, then is gravity another way to explain God, another name to give God, the uncreated creator?

    Also, what are the moral implications of any of this discussion, if any? In my own finite life, at least this version of it, does this perspective of origin inform any action of mine? Or is the whole notion of purpose and ethical conduct a human conceit?

  • miro

    Next time get some real scientists working on real questions that are answerable.

    None of this blather about infinite time or alternate universes is the least bit testable or falsifiable, and these ideas tell us nothing about our own universe.

    Get a theoretical biologist if you’re going to entertain speculation about how likely life is in the set of all possible universes. This guy has no clue.

    We look back derisively at the naivete of medieval theologians debating how many angels fit on the head of a pin, but this discussion, centuries later, is no different. Human propensity for self-delusion and bombast has not diminished over the intervening period. why is that physicists can’t simply admit that they don’t know the answers to these kinds of questions? They are completely out of their depth.

  • David

    This is more of the old thin gruel that has been coming out of this camp for years.

    When I heard that the answer to the ultimate question was: “Something will spontaneously come out of nothing” I must tell you, I actually laughed out loud.

    And to the question: “How is it that the laws of physics are just so perfectly tuned, one law after another, to enable life, to enable us…?

    The response is: Well it just so happens that they are that way in this universe. There are an infinite number of other universes where the laws are not that way, and in those other universes there is no life as we know it.”

    This argument is similiar to the one that says that if enough monkeys randomly type away for a long enough time, one of them will eventually spew out a Shakespearen play. Our universe, the one we live in, is just the one, out of an infinite number, that happended to enable life. There is nothing special about it. If you form enough universes, one of them is bound to have the conditions for life!

    Thin gruel indeed.

  • http://www.amandawildnotes.blogspot.com AW

    There is no doubt that science has unlocked some of the secrets of the natural world, and that these discoveries as applied to the human cultural endeavor have enabled the creation of countless tools and inventions that define the tone and fabric of the life we find ourselves in at this point in time and space.

    However, the opposition or competition between Science and God is a false one. Each has separate applications in the human world. But in pondering the physical or natural world, we should not let the idea of God serve as excuse to halt our curiosity and probing of the world we find ourselves in.

    It is absurd to attribute the paradoxes of nature to nature herself. It is human arrogance to think that the clear, measurable, grand, unified explanation of the world that eludes us is a fundamental property of the universe itself. Einstein is often quoted saying “God does not play dice with the universe.” What he meant by this was that the discrepancy between theory and observation was a human error; it is foolish to fold an inadequate theory for something into the very essence of that something itself.

    Einstein’s own work contributed to the uncertainty princple of quantum mechanics, a principle which he himself was willing to accept. He is sometimes represented as “getting soft” in his later years. Few scientists today work on the problem of unifying relativity with the quantum theory. Careers can easily be made bypassing that question, and so it is easily avoided.

    However, Einstein never gave up this search. It is characteristic of modern times to regard the world as ultimately knowable, so much so that mysteries are quickly swept under the bed with crude explanations. Tom may have touched on the impact of this phenomenon to the world of science and human culture itself when he noted the fading role of philosophy in modern times.

    I believe I read somewhere that Einstein would know if there were holes in a physicist’s work just by looking at the equations. If the equations are ugly, there are mistakes. It is what is true and correct that yields beautiful equations.

    Says Einstein himself,
    “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

    I have been reading about Einstein recently and find not only his work but the story of his struggle to do that work enormously inspiring. More here http://amandawildnotes.blogspot.com/2010/09/best-model-of-reality-is-reality-itself_09.html

    This was a fascinating conversation. Thank you On Point for having the kind of discussions that have gone out of fashion in private circles.

  • wtdavidson

    It’s remarkable how many people feel compelled to react to this show as if it were an argument against the existence of God, despite Mr. Miodinow’s explicit explanations to the contrary. It seems to prevent really hearing the substance of the discussion. It seems to me that we still can’t really get over or around the idea that everything there ever was has occurred just to lead up to this moment, for some mystic purpose, to enable us to exist.

  • http://www.onpointradio.org Cheryl

    Mind-boggling discussion! Appreciated opportunity to hear Ashbrook’s queries of Mlodinow, with some comments by Hawkings included, as to the remarkable theories of time, space, and universes as described by these scientists! Look forward to perusing their book!

  • AW

    correction: Einstein was UNwilling to accept the uncertainty principle

  • Wendy Smith

    The answer, of course, is 42.

  • JacFlasche

    “If time is or ever was variable, wouldn’t that change distance? In other words, could the big bang actually just be the beginning of time because if time suddenly grew greatly, the time it takes light to travel from one point to another, (our current measuring tool) would then greatly increase, making it appear that planets and systems quickly expanded in distance?” Posted by Scott, on September 9th, 2010 at 11:51 AM

    Time is not an independent phenomenon. No clocks (in the greater sense of two or more things in relative motion) no time. No motion = no time. It is proven every day that time is variable by the offset needed for accuracy in the GPS system.

  • Zeno

    Man created God… and then God created everything. Ah..the simple life.

  • JacFlasche

    “It is characteristic of modern times to regard the world as ultimately knowable, so much so that mysteries are quickly swept under the bed with crude explanations.”
    Posted by AW, on September 9th, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    The absolute crudest and least accurate of which is superstition. Religion is no better. Religion has little to do with ANY reality outside of the delusional memes they coddle because of fear and ignorance. And most of all, religion has absolutely nothing to do with enlightenment. which is the origin of all conceptions of a higher dimension of conscious experience, which when erroneously understood by those who have never had a taste of the physical reality of this quantum leap of consciousness results in religion. I repeat religion has nothing to do with enlightenment. Science may have something to do with it someday. They may come to explain its metabolic mechanisms but this will not be the experience and the belief that the explanation and the experience are related is almost totally incorrect.
    Religion is one of the most evil things ever foisted upon the minds of humans, especially those that are derived from Judaism, and its unfortunate descendants. Although, though some parts of the conglomerate known as Hinduism seem to regard cosmic questions, mostly it is superstitious nonsense every bit as prone to hostility and insanity as the others. (witness the recent burning of Christian churches in India). Even Buddhism, especially Tibetan, incorporated earlier superstitions in order to win the minds of the ignorant.

  • http://N/A Jack

    Question: In the discussion of multiple universes, isn’t the existence of an observer mandatory?

  • gemli

    @David,
    I guess by “this camp” you mean the scientific camp, and the “thin gruel” includes the theories that gave us space flight, modern medicine, instantaneous worldwide communication, electricity, weather satellites, and a whole lot of other things. It may not be intuitively obvious that empty space is not “nothing” in the everyday sense, but once our perceptions of the world were expanded beyond what we could see, touch, hear, smell, and feel, whole new worlds opened up. We know they’re real, because the world you and I live in is built on the theories that came out of “this camp.”

    On the conditions of the universe being just right for human evolution, Dr. Mlodinow’s point was that we can’t evolve in a universe that doesn’t permit us to evolve. The universe didn’t have to be designed to allow us to live. If we’re alive, then the universe we see around us can only be one that supports our form of life. This seems pretty obvious.

    Science is not secret dogma, handed down to a select few. With a little effort and study, anyone can verify everything that science holds to be true. Suddenly seeing how the parts of the universe fit together can elicit a number of emotions, and laughing out loud is sometimes one of them. It’s not typically a laugh of derision though, but of wonder.

  • JacFlasche

    Regarding my use of the word evil above.

    I use it only as “The domination of those who do not wish to be dominated.” (definition of evil by Jan Cox)

    Such as the evil that is done to children by indoctrinating them into ridiculous and life deforming beliefs before they have developed a capacity for critical reasoning. Isn’t it cosmically ironic that these indoctinators thing they are doing these children the ultimate good service by spreading their insane contagion?

  • JacFlasche

    There is no such thing as “nothing”. Nothing is just a concept, a mathematical place holder for things not present (in context). This same misunderstanding is evident in the poplar conception of the famous Zen and Vedic “void” by westerners.

    Another thing that doesn’t exist is a multiverse or multiple universes. If you find an additional universe in your math or where-ever it just means you were only considering a fraction of the universe as the whole before you came upon it. Universe means the entire cosmos, so to say you have many universes is just an inaccurate modification of the language.

    from the Online Etymology Dictionary
    “the whole world, cosmos,” from O.Fr. univers (12c.), from L. universum “the universe,” noun use of neut. of adj. universus “all together,” lit. “turned into one,” from unus “one” (see one) + versus, pp. of vertere “to turn” (see versus). Properly a loan-translation of Gk. to holon “the universe,” noun use of neut. of adj. holos “whole” (see safe (adj.)).

  • http://N/A Jack

    So does a single universe rely on the existence of an observer, or no observer at all? If conception defines a universe, can more than one universe be sublated by the act of communication or a method of transformation? I am not at all sure that philosophy has not kept up with science, are you?

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    A poster requested the presence of Francis Collins in the next scientific discussion group.

    I have no qualms with Collins’s illustrious scientific achievments, and his handling of the stem-cell controversy has been very fair. However, Collins is famous less for his achievments (for which he deserves fame) and more for his minority status as a believing Christian in a field where about 9 out of 10 of his colleagues are atheists.

    Collins is entitled to his beliefs. I must say however that I found the story of how he came to those beliefs out of an agnostic background to be quite hackneyed, involving a bit of coincidental symbolism that was objectively meaningless. He has claimed that he was once asked by a believing medical patient what his own beliefs were, and was embarassed that he didn’t have any and didn’t know why. He ought to have understood that not having a belief in something intangible is not an indefensible position; it is those who have faith in things unseen that need to defend their position.

    Collins is a smart and valuable member of the scientific community, but he is not any kind of authority on God … not that any kind of authority actually exists, since God is an imaginary concept, and therefore everyone (and no one) is an authority.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    It seems to me that the universe may have an objective existence but that it is more likely that the universe is contigent upon subjective experience. That is, we are the eyes, ears, and mind of the cosmos. Without eyes to perceive light, the universe, though filled with radiation, is effectively dark. Without ears in an atmosphere, there is no sound. Without nerves with which to feel, heat and cold have their effects on physics but are not sensations, and physical substance is numb. Without mind, there is no awareness. Given the size of the universe, it is likely that life is rare but not unique to Earth, so we are probably not the only examples in past or future of the universe’s self-awareness … but still, how precious we are! The cosmos may not need a creator, and it may not need observers, but without the latter, the cosmos literally does not exist unto itself. We are Being.

  • JacFlasche

    “I am not at all sure that philosophy has not kept up with science, are you?”
    Posted by Jack, on September 9th, 2010 at 2:55 PM

    Well Jack, it is my experience that philosophy as it is presented in our educational institutions has taken a wrong turn long ago. In my experience, the real principle philosophic is a dynamic organic process that actually modifies the physical properties of the nervous and endocrine systems that pursues it. However that is my own experience, and since there is no possibility of anyone identifying me without spending a fortune to do it, I will confess that I have been successful in doing things that would cause the prophets of old to salivate with envy before attributing their erroneous conceptions to these phenomenon. The problem is that once one’s mind (automatic flow of association that one calls “I”, has been transcended and rendered lusciously mute by the appearance of a suprafunctional luminous conscious experience (that is, as I reported in the past characterized by overflowing compassion) nothing accurate can be noted about it by the old associative compulsive grasping that is the mundane mind. The attempt to do this can even bring the whole thing to an end. There are no postcards that can be sent from such nonrelative illumination to back home. If you are starting with the ordinary associative mechanical process of mind: “You just can’t get there form here.” Even to people with a real suspicion about its existence and a longing to get there, nothing accurate can be expressed in words or thoughts that is not of the nature of telling what it is not. And anytime anyone with even a little charisma who has been there opens his mouth, look what happens. The ignorant turn it into religion and spooky nonsense while it’s as physical as a heart attack. Everything in the universe is material: your hopes your beliefs and your inaccurate conceptual representations of the qualities of existence are all physical. Hell, even Gurdjieff knew that.

  • http://www.suprarational.org Ron Krumpos

    In “The Grand Design” Stephen Hawking postulates that the M-theory may be the Holy Grail of physics…the Grand Unified Theory which Einstein had tried to formulate and later abandoned. It expands on quantum mechanics and string theories.

    In my e-book on comparative mysticism is a quote by Albert Einstein: “…most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty – which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive form – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of all religion.”

    Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is probably the best known scientific equation. I revised it to help better understand the relationship between divine Essence (Spirit), matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and consciousness (fx raised to its greatest power). Unlike the speed of light, which is a constant, there are no exact measurements for consciousness. In this hypothetical formula, basic consciousness may be of insects, to the second power of animals and to the third power the rational mind of humans. The fourth power is suprarational consciousness of mystics, when they intuit the divine essence in perceived matter. This was a convenient analogy, but there cannot be a divine formula.

  • JacFlasche

    “The cosmos may not need a creator, and it may not need observers, but without the latter, the cosmos literally does not exist unto itself. We are Being.”
    Posted by Joshua Hendrickson, on September 9th, 2010 at 3:22 PM

    Two cents on this:
    This would be correct if there were such a thing as inanimate matter. everything IS alive, and there is a Life of life. That is, there is that which has the same relationship to life as most believe “self-aware” (and I use the term loosely)life has, to what they assume from a minute’ frame of reference, to be inanimate. If this seems too strange, perhaps it can be approached from the evidence of self-similarity as an intrinsic symmetry in nature?

  • David

    I can grasp that in quantum mechanics, a sub atomic particle can appear out of “nothing”, but a whole universe? I thought the whole problem Hawking was grappling with was the unifying theory – at the moment gravity with the galaxies and quantum mechanics are not quite unified…

  • Courtney

    gemli – though it may seem that God did not answer prayers in times of struggle, as you mentioned, God DID answer, and those answers are penicillin and the polio vaccine. He gives scientists the ability to create these medicines; they are merely deliverers of His gifts. God gave us those medicines via scientists.

  • JacFlasche

    “gemli – though it may seem that God did not answer prayers in times of struggle, as you mentioned, God DID answer, and those answers are penicillin and the polio vaccine. He gives scientists the ability to create these medicines; they are merely deliverers of His gifts. God gave us those medicines via scientists.”
    Posted by Courtney, on September 9th, 2010 at 6:23 PM

    This is infantile reasoning. Even on it’s own level it is nonsense. Who gave us polio? The devil? Who gave us the devil? If you believe in an all powerful being that created man with innate propensities that he condemns to eternal torture, a loving God who created man virtually incapable of escaping his own destructive nature then torturing him eternally for it? If this is the case. Like all the believers (persons addicted to low level hormones {feelings and emotions that you project onto the cosmos}) you know nothing. The believers (guessers) should shut up and try to learn something real for a change. Or at least just shut up until they figure out how ignorant they really are, and how their lovely beliefs lead directly to their own opposite in real results.

    A system is not comprehensible on its on level. Much less a higher system from a lower level which is what this trite rationalization represents. Try to understand that.

    You will never be able to understand anything real about existence until you give up your nonsense assumptions and realize that basically as far a these questions are concerned anyone who could make such a statement as is quoted above, despite the best of intentions and feelings, is dangerous to developing minds and knows less than nothing.

  • Joseph

    Start with a famous historical anecdote: The French mathematician described to Napoleon how mathematics could be used to predict the orbits of the planets around the sun. Napoleon asked, “But what place is there for God in all this?” Laplace replied, “I have no need for that hypothesis.” That’s the crux of the whole debate about proving or disproving the existence of God. God is a hypothesis created by the mind of man. Moreover it is a hypothesis that while it could be proved, if someone prayed to God that the sun would not rise again for the next 48 hours and this came true, it would make strong case for the existence of God, it cannot be disproved. I am an unbeliever but I can’t prove God does not exist and will never be able to. God could just exist but have never given evidence of his existence. That could also be true for invisible aliens from the galaxy Andromeda that live among us without our knowledge. No I don’t believe this, it’s just an equally disprovable hypothesis.

    Man’s need for religion, a need that extends far back in time to before monotheism, has always centered around some questions posed here: “Why do I exist (and the universe)?” “What happens to me when I die?” The simplest answers are: No reason, just chance. Nothing, you are dead. That’s Occam’s Razor in action.

  • JacFlasche

    “A system is not comprehensible on its on level.”

    should be: A system is not comprehensible on its own level.

    Microsoft wireless keyboard vastly inferior to Logitech’s. Sorry for all the typos past and future.

  • Bush’s fault

    Thanks NPR for allowing us to indulge in cocktail party theology.

  • Jim Barbaro

    The speaker said that it is unknown where the term “M-theory comes from. According to Wikipedia regarding the origin of the term “M-Theory”:
    Originally the letter M in M-theory was taken from membrane, a construct designed to generalize the strings of string theory. However, as Witten was more skeptical about membranes than his colleagues, he opted for “M-theory” rather than “Membrane theory”. Witten has since stated that the interpretation of the M can be a matter of taste for the user of the word “M-theory.”

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    jacflashe:

    your take on all the universe being self-aware sounds like pantheism to me. I admit that if there is a God, it is probably Spinoza’s God (as Einstein claimed), but as there is no empirical evidence for this, I prefer to assume that biological life is the sole source of awareness in the universe.

  • Carl

    Stephen Hawkin admits that physical laws exist in the universe, such as gravity. He said that gravity played a major roll in the creation of something, out of nothing. It’s true, there are many laws that govern the universe. Without laws, there would be no order. There would be mass confusion, chaos, dissruption. One of the laws that is built within us humans on earth is, moral law. It’s the one that causes us to want to treat each other with dignity and respect, to love our neighbor as ourself, to help people in time of crisis and catastrophe. For the most part, we desire to want to do the right thing.
    The fact that we have laws, must mean that there was a law-giver. If there exists moral laws, than there must be a moral law giver.
    Without moral laws, we would live our lives just to please ourselves, without consideration of anyone else. The world be be in turmoil, if it even would exist at all. What would be the reason to live? What would be the meaning to life? Let us just live, eat, and rejoice today, for tomorrow we shall die.
    There is much more to this life than this. It can only be found in God. With God we have a reason to be born and a purpose to live each day.

  • Firefly

    Professor Hawkings is such a genius. Imagine what more he can achieve if he is not paralyzed.

  • http://www.scribd.com/doc/36568510/A-Novel-and-Efficient-Synthesis-of-Cadaverine Lanny Budd

    Hawking can barely communicate his thoughts now. What would happen if he finally figures out the grand unifying theory but can’t tell anyone about it?

    It might look something like this:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/19550880/GUT-The-Grand-Unified-Theory-A-oneact-play-with-seven-blackouts

  • JacFlasche

    “jacflashe:

    your take on all the universe being self-aware sounds like pantheism to me. I admit that if there is a God, it is probably Spinoza’s God (as Einstein claimed), but as there is no empirical evidence for this, I prefer to assume that biological life is the sole source of awareness in the universe.”
    Posted by Joshua Hendrickson, on September 9th, 2010 at
    9:21 PM

    Perfectly understandable. My dogmatic statements must seem like utter nonsense or at least something that the associative mind can relate to, to most people, such as pantheism. I am only too aware of my inability to express that which is basically the only thing I find worth refering to, when considering the human condition. This also allows me the luxury of being utterly bombastic and humble at the same time. Since not only does my associative mind and feelings, draped as they are, upon a magnetic toroidal scaffold like everyone else, understand the impossibility of explaining that lucid ultra consciousness from which mind is absent (void) but I am continually aware that the very part of me which at times has fun with just blabbing about the real secret (as opposed to the fake secret which recently appeared in pop spiritual books and films and which was really just the ten thousandth rehashing of the power of positive thinking) (the real secret keeps itself because it cannot be told) despite the fact that my mind itself if not capable of the things to which it is refering (nor is any mind including Einstein) and it (that is to say “I”) understands that anything it says about This is incorrect. Nevertheless it is just THIS to which all this nonsense (popular belief systems) refers. At least before they got turned around and upside down by the native polar based thinking of we humans. I tell you, now that I can’t be burned at the stake or even identified. I find it really kind of interesting to just throw this stuff out there even though there is really only a chance that ten to the minus four percent of people who think they have an interest in such matters actually do.
    By the way I didn’t say that all the universe is self-aware. I said that there are things that are more aware than humans. I said that all the universe is alive, but not of course in the sense that we define biological life within our cosmic locale. There are humans who themselves have been more aware than humans. Ask anyone who has taken a strong psychedelic drug. I can tell you for sure that the endogenous experience of enhanced consciousness is exponentially more beneficial, enlivening, revealing, and strange than any experience induced by external drugs. But it is far less accessible. Part of this is that outside of a few hidden schools (hidden to protect themselves from the true believers) it has always been associated with external miracles and other nonsense. Another part is that no system or technique, or amount of prayer or practice can lead to it, despite what the associative polar based mind would LIKE to be the case. Religion is like a cheap burlesque of the real science of how human consciousness can evolve beyond itself within a persons lifetime, but with everything turned ass backwards.
    But please don’t get the idea that I am complaining. It always sounds like a criticism when someone just points at something point blank for what it is (religions being 98% misleading destructive nonsense) But the idea that a scientist, no matter how brilliant, who is only utilizing a kind of high resolution polar thinking, and has no real experience of the immediate visceral physical ecstatic nature of a quantum leap in consciousness is the wise man of our age because he has some theory that approximates reality in a more or less coherent fashion in our locale at this time, is equal nonsense. But between the preacher and the physicist there is no contest as to their accuracy. Unfortunately an individual only has a life time, so if you intend to wait until science delineates the mechanisms of enlightenment you will be dead before you get started. I am not refering to you Joshua, by “you” I mean all of us, that is, anyone who really has an unquenchable thirst for consciousness and loves insight and realization. As Carlos Dwa said, “If you wait for how long it will take you, you will never get it done.”

  • JacFlasche

    Carl wrote “It’s true, there are many laws that govern the universe. Without laws, there would be no order. There would be mass confusion, chaos, dissruption.”

    Like the confusion of equating the laws of physics with social laws? Are you so sure that the laws you are imagining came first? What if the order came first and all laws are derivative?

    Carl also wrote “One of the laws that is built within us humans on earth is, moral law. It’s the one that causes us to want to treat each other with dignity and respect, to love our neighbor as ourself, to help people in time of crisis and catastrophe.”

    Or enable us to be roused so passionately because of false beliefs that we are willing to go out and kill someone for God or the fatherland. Let us disregard all of human history and continue.

    Carl also wrote “The fact that we have laws, must mean that there was a law-giver. If there exists moral laws, than there must be a moral law giver.”

    And if there is moral turpitude it must mean what? That what you are referring to in no way equates with what is meant by a law in physics but to mere confusion on your part?

    Carl also wrote “Without moral laws, we would live our lives just to please ourselves, without consideration of anyone else. The world be be in turmoil, if it even would exist at all. What would be the reason to live? What would be the meaning to life? Let us just live, eat, and rejoice today, for tomorrow we shall die.
    There is much more to this life than this. It can only be found in God. With God we have a reason to be born and a purpose to live each day.”

    Wow Carl, do you have any idea how many errors in reason you have presented in you short paragraphs? The kind of errors that can lead directly to wrong conclusions. First of all I would be willing to bet that if you substitute the phrase “My own ignorance” for the term God, you would be more correct. Although if you consider that the word god was probably derived from Indo European terms which meant “to cry out” maybe you are actually more correct. Does anybody even have to point out to you that having a reason to be born is not why people are born. People should learn how to think, just in an ordinary sense, before they go spouting half-baked feelings as theosophy.

    Don’t get me wrong I do sympathize, but you are not going to get the radical neuropeptides that your system is obviously longing for, via your beliefs. Unless you consider sleeping soundly while moving though your life as contentment. Pleasant dreams.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    jacflashe:

    thank you for your lengthy, detailed response to my comment about pantheism. I can’t say I followed all of it very well. Some of the fault must be mine; “polar thinking” is not a concept I am familiar with. Some of the fault is yours: your prose is not always clear or coherent. When it is lucid, however, your points are interesting and thought-provoking.

    You make references to secrets that keep themselves, and also refer to yourself as (I think) being a keeper of such secrets, possibly in danger of being discovered (protecting your true identity seems to be a real issue for you). This is a little too much mysticism for me. I get your point; after all, I have had my psychedelic experiences in the past and understand the power of mental spelunking. I just think that, since everything is in our heads, we must be careful about ascribing thought and life to the rest of the physical universe. Of course, let us all feel free to speculate as wildly as we like; the best questions don’t lead to answers but to even better questions.

    Interesting stuff!

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    Bush’s fault:

    Yes, this was cocktail party theology … but then, theology never rises above the cocktail party level. That’s what makes it so fun: we make it all up!

    Science, at least, must conform to evidential strictures, falsifiability, and theoretical usefulness. Theology is just twaddle, but it is at least interesting twaddle.

  • Dan

    I’ve gone over most of the comments and I’m sad to say that they reflect what seems to be the prevailing view that most Americans are “faithers” rather than thinkers. One salient exception is Gemli, who clearly understands how life improved as rational thought finally began mastering religious orthodoxy. Folmkus also seems to appreciate the wonder of this amazing universe. To echo his remarks I cite this great quote from the late Sir Arthur Eddington: “Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.” And Jim nicely captures the anthropomorphic quality of imposing purpose one universe.

    William Bracy captures the believers point of view when he says that “most” individuals cannot talk about the “ultimate questions” without “naming god”. Well that’s the problem isn’t it? And what about those of us who can? Shall we be ignored in order to insulate theology from skeptical inquiry?

    Charlie Mc makes the curious claim that because there is no evidence to support the existence of god, science cannot prove that god does not exist. Of course it is not possible to prove a negative, but you can say that if there is no evidence to support a proposition, it is reasonable to assume that the proposition is false. It demonstrates how weak the argument for the existence of god is that proponents must cite the lack of evidence for the existence of god as an argument in its favor.

    If I understand his comments, Gerald Fnord seems to be a skeptic, however he misunderstands the Blind Watchmaker allegory. Dawkins’ 1986 book by that name was a falsification of the anthropomorphic reasoning behind intelligent design – just the opposite of his observation.

    Millard Fillmore’s point that the meaning of the word “god” varies from speaker to speaker is quite relevant. The primary variable is whether or not the word is used to refer to an impersonal force responsible for creation (deism) or to a personal entity with human-like qualities and an interest in our individual lives (theism). Neither idea has explanatory power since they simply posit a notion out of whole cloth (faith). Deism is less idiosyncratic and therefore often less objectionable, while theism makes quite ludicrous claims.

    Edosa Eweke makes several rather strange and groundless pseudo scientific statements and finishes rather defensively by saying “well, this is my view”. It’s all well and good to have views, but it is helpful if they are informed views. It is much easier to make declarations of belief than to pursue evidence-based truth.

    F William Bracy questions Gerald Fnord’s “level of understanding”, and then goes on to claim that there is a different time dimension for each spacial dimension, which is a novel invention on his part. He goes on to talk about dimensional harmonics (sic) and the absurdity of multiple or parallel universes (concepts that have been developed by some of the smartest minds on the planet – including Edward Witten) with an almost breathless certainty. Faith-based physics is no better than theology.

    Steve T says that evolution in the bible. Very interesting, considering that Christianity fought this heresy tooth and nail ever since Darwin presented the idea. Anyone remember the Scopes Monkey Trial? He goes on to say that he knows that your godly connection to spirituality (whatever that means)is just there, but as he himself says, “whatever you think that don’t make it so until you can prove it.”

    And Michael Dickson claims that the interpretation of physical theory is metaphysics. Metaphysics has nothing to do with science. It is unfounded, meaningless mumbo jumbo.

    Brian says that Newton believed some pretty weird stuff, which he did, but that does not invalidate his science which has survived the test of time. He talks about hurting “the cause” as if we were still in the pre-enlightenment period when the church could suppress free thought. Thank god (pun intended) that this is no longer the case.

    Paul says that science can’t explain how something came from nothing, but he goes on to say that believers can –that god made it. This is not an explanation, it’s merely an assertion. It explains nothing.

    Kristina says that science and god (religion) go hand in hand. I beg to differ. Science is based on evidence and free inquiry. Religion is based on faith and obedience to prescribed ideas. They are implacable foes. It was not until we began to shed the shackles of religious orthodoxy and totalitarianism that true progress in improving the lot of mankind began. And as far as recruiting Dr. Francis Crick, maybe the conversation would have been more interesting, but truth is not measured by plebiscite, and in any event, far more scientists are athiests than believers. Dr. Crick is the exception.

    Jim K unequivocally says that, in spite of the amazing progress in our understanding of the universe, especially during the last century, we will never understand how there can be an uncaused cause. While he may not have this vision, many others who do the science – or, like I, follow it with fascination – do. It will not be something that will happen soon, and the answers will probably be more alien to us than we can imagine today, but it is the pursuit of truth that is so inspiringly human. “Higher Power” or “God” are ideas that explain nothing and obstruct real progress in understanding our world.

    Ann Stout says that god exists because there has to be a source for all things. Well, maybe there does have to be a source, but this is no proof that the Christian god is that source, or, indeed, that it is any more than a figment of the imagination. She cites a medieval theologian (Aquinas) as one of the greatest thinkers of all time while omitting the brilliant scientists who have toiled, often in the face of mortal threats from the church, to discover how the world really works and, in the process, to create the unprecedented lifestyle that we enjoy today. That is very strange to me.

    Well, that’s as far as I’ve gotten. Not a very impressive outing for the American thinker. Well, this is not a controlled study. Perhaps those who are more serious about these ideas don’t post these comments.

  • JacFlasche

    Joshua wrote “polar thinking” is not a concept I am familiar with.”

    Sorry sometimes I assume that the terms I use are more obvious than they are. All thinking is polar in that it is based on what we call positive and negative charges.

    I am referring to physical electrical charges at the synapse. So really, unless a person has experienced anything that transcends the associative thought that flows thorough people quite automatically, but for which they none the less feel proprietary attitudes and identify as their minds and usually even as themselves, they have never experienced anything but polar based thinking.

    Because of this they are totally unaware of its nature and are totally blind to the mechanism of what they consider their most intimate inner world or apperception.

    It should be screamingly obvious that people have a feeling about almost anything that rises to the conscious level within them. A feeling that they like it or they don’t to which they then say “I believe bla bla bla.” When they are told that their most intimate subjective awareness and identitiy is purely mechanical and has nothing at all to do with free will or other imagined attributes, 99.99999% (or there about) of people will have an immediate negative reaction.

    They don’t like it so they don’t believe it. Just like the manner in which many people reject the theory of evolution out of hand, because they just don’t like the feeling it gives them to be equated with dirty slimy animals and their bestial conditions (as they see it). It’s a visceral reaction; then it is clothed in all manner of “reasoning” to rationalize or justify it.

    However that one odd ball person who is told this about their “mind” is fascinated because it could explain a lot about things they have noticed about themselves and others. Such a person may have a real possibility of transforming that which they have always identified as “them”, “their mind”, “their soul” from a subjective tarbaby of a process into an object of observation. Or as Jan Cox put it, “See it or be it.”

    One may be inclined to question whether it is not just one part of the same automatic subjective process reflecting on itself. If this is the case the perception of their own mechanical nature will engender self-criticism and condemnation of this nauseatingly repetitious process. However with a little association with someone who is not enthralled by their identification with this quite mechanical process this will not be the case. Their observations will be clinical and cool and somewhat freeing.

    This is what Gurdjieff referred to as self-remembering and it is the prime requisite for moving out of the endless feedback loop that human consciousness is captured within. Now the question will eventually arise, “Does this “inner work” actually lead to that which such a person has always suspected existed, that is, a quantum shift in consciusness to a level as much more lucid than “waking consciousness” as “waking consciusness” is to a frustrating dream from which one cannot awake.

    It does not. But a person cannot do anything or experience anything that is of that nature without first having an active insight into the quite automatic process that they believe they are and which they also believe all kinds of fancyful notions about. Such as it will continue after death, it has free will, it actually makes decisions and doesn’t just formulate preconscious reactions into words.

    I know how this all sounds. I know that there isn’t much chance of anyone realizing that I am not engaging in hearsay or some ideas I came up with, but for the benefit of that rare individual I will simply state I am not talking about anything that I have not done.

    It’s all very well to have one or two extraordinary experiences the true sense and nature of which are quickly distorted by one’s own representation of them to oneself and others, or quickly forget what happened to you. My comments, such as they are, are for those few who cannot forget, and know this is the direction that human evolution must take if it is to ever transcend its historic quagmire.

    So Joshua I understand that my bombastic babbling is difficult, I deeply apologize for this. If I were a more clever person perhaps I could come up with an effective way to transmit the truly wonderful state of things. I can tell you this, and you can take it for what you will. The reality of existance if far more wonderful than anyone thinks it is, and far more wonderful than anyone is capable of thinking. It is more astonishing than if a fairy tale turned out to be physically true. However believing what I am saying or not is meaningless. If you are the right genetic type you can see for yourself, given the breathing space from your habitual modes.

  • joe albiani

    Why everyone is stumped by the concept of spontaneous creation when everyone does it all the time. Every dream at night is a spontaneous creation of a total universe. Genesis says God put Adam to sleep but it never says he awoke. The physical universe/reality is an illusion and Hawkins and all the other brilliant minds are examining all parts of the illusion to explain it. They miss the point. The dreamer is where the focus should be not the dream.
    The illusion of seperation is the source of all human suffering. There is only one being and we are all parts of it.

  • Paul

    Less interesting than I expected, although I am buying the book. It sounds like they believe they can explain “how” but I’n interested in “why.” I guess that makes me a philosopher rather than a scientist. The statement early in the book that philosophy is dead shows their detachment from why we ask the Question (“why is there something and not just nothing”) and lack of recognition that the principal of reason is intertwined with the beauty of the phenomena.

  • Steve

    Tom caught Mr. Mlodinow when he asked what caused the initial bang/combustion to take place. That’s an easy question to answer, and I felt he didn’t answer this well. He seemed to default back to the 10 to the minus 34th equation – which still begs the question.
    Conditions were ripe for combustion like our big bang to take place – even if it took billions of years of nothingness and probably billions of previous near hits which may or may not have included various elements (well, molecules of) floating around in various levels of strength or weakness. Now I’m no Physicist or Molecular Biologist or even an Astronautical Engineer, but this is what I think: Combustion can only happen where conditions are ripe to take place, including deepest space. Maybe the fact that deep space is necessary for it to happen, and when the molecular collision is perfect – featuring enough of two or more elements and the absolute perfect force and timing, there you have it – a more or less simple explanation of how we perhaps got here. Then consider that several trillion previous collisions or almost-collisions amounted to nothing, or very little, due in part or wholly because conditions were not absolutely perfect. There is absolutely nothing to suggest our bang was the first, nor the last. it’s just one of an infinite number. The problem usually is we simple humans haven’t developed the where-with-all or patience to figure out the hugely crazy numbers we are talking about. Infinity is a tough thing to grasp. but because infinity is infinite, there is no God. God was purely created by man as a theory the theorists (sometimes over millenia) felt many people will buy into, to answer the big questions. At the very least the God theory, they felt, ought to satisfy the majority (we can imprison those that go against this theory), and taking it further, maybe the God theory – they felt again – is actually correct (they contrived this theory when science and its truths was not around, was not considered, or allowed to be considered or outright crushed). It was all contrived and sold as true. The son of God theory is brilliant in its contrivization as well. What was missing from their God theory, particularly among a ruthless society at the time? Somehow bring man closer to God. And voila: find a unique, bright person, add some some God-like qualities (even though this was done later by scribes who never met Christ), but keep him looking and suffering as a human. Martyrdom was a beautiful quality for their aims.
    Our big bang, like the one sperm that embeds in the egg making a human, was the one that worked and made us the survivors we are today. It was the one in multi-trillions of previous bangs of various sizes and energy levels that may or may not have made it as far as we have. there will be multi-trillions more after we are long gone. There are probably billions and billions of universes, but they only come into existence, again, when conditions are ripe for formation. Here’s something else to consider: there never was a beginning, there never is an end, everything that comes into existence will evolve constantly, will work as it is for a while, then eventually fade into something else or away for one reason or many and become something else, and then something else, and so on and so on. Who says this stuff is hard to figure out?

  • billydee

    re: jacflashe
    I am an associative network of preconscious thoughts which may or may not exist before the neuro-chemical signatures of them show their existence (and that is one of my questions : does/can thought occur Before electro- chemical activity, or only as a result of such brain activity…but more on that later)
    put another way, I am an oddball intrigued by your presentations here
    and jokingly wonder if your sloppiness with singular versus plural in sentence structure (“the one oddball person who is told this about THEIR mind…” how many is one? Is that the riddle? I don’t think so but it could be.
    Maybe my little sensitivity to this is as ridiculous as the rest of my existence, but if one were to have a certain type of genetic makeup where would he or she find or be the transcendental link in or out of his or her own associative loops of ignorance?
    I know that I don’t know what I don’t know; and I know that what I know is but a speck on the sun.
    I totally applaud the quest for truth but I am flabbergasted by how readily(automatically?) and seemingly blindly most of us project and overlay our current knowledge or belief system over the whole show.
    Like saying it is all in our heads.How do we know that?
    Just because we find a thought in our brain, how do we know that it originated there? I live in this house but I did not originate here. Is this Heresy, ignorance or a questioning leading to more dimensions of our thought/existence/reality? Ask and you shall receive.
    Stephen Hawking mentioned that we need to think in other dimensions. Is that like trying to think of a new color. God that’s hard.

  • rowlandw

    If we had evolved under a permanent cloud deck (like Venus) it would never have occurred to us that there was anything beyond.

  • JacFlasche

    “re: jacflashe
    I am an associative network of preconscious thoughts which may or may not exist before the neuro-chemical signatures of them show their existence (and that is one of my questions : does/can thought occur Before electro- chemical activity, or only as a result of such brain activity…but more on that later)” Posted by billydee, on September 10th, 2010 at 8:54 PM

    Do you really think that thought and neurological activity are two distinct things? I am not implying that thought is the only neurological activity possible but that it is itself entirely a function of neurons (in the flavor of your hormonal cocktail-of-the-moment, of course. The foreground and the background are often more apparent than that which unifies and connects such a division. This third factor is often characterized by it’s irrelevancy to what is being observed (much like how most everybody feels about the info I am relating here.) Such as: we have the observer and the observed, but we also have the seeing itself. We have frequently been told by Madison avenue and sources of pop psychology to, “Think outside the box.” What if thinking is the box? What is the nature of a feedback loop that has freed itself of it’s own apparent dynamic? It stops. It’s nonexistence becomes apparent. It swaps places with something that heretofore was irrelevant and assumes that function itself. Do we as humans have the equipment to function at a conscious level above thought? Yes we do, at least some do, or they are capable of developing it. By this do I mean that one would just be the same but without compulsive busy-thought? No, it is an enriched functioning, and extended consciousness is it’s own reward for many reasons. There is no effort to stop one’s thoughts involved; that just happens. It is entirely physical, as is everything. It is what has been mistaken for entering heaven alive, and being dumbstruck by the gods, pierced by the divine, visited by angels etc: in other ages. The normal process of identity, the normal flow of associative thought or even active deliberation, stops. Is there still neural activity when this happens? More, new, and better. Being that it is not part of one’s habitual identity it is easy to understand why it has been seen as divine visitation and other supernatural explanations. Once one has their first astonished taste of this higher dimension of consciousness the only real question is, “How can it be brought about again?” Only a fool would give advise to someone else regarding what they should do, so that won’t stop me. If I became convinced that someone was serious about this thing and they asked me what to do, I would tell them to find someone who can do it who is alive and hang out with them if, they are open to such an arrangement. Baring that, I would say become familiar with the works of someone who has apparently been successful in helping people with this in the past. But for the right type of person without any qualifications at all I could just say, “Don’t give your attention to anything that you don’t have a real interest in.” But it’s a tuff question. Many of the “schools” and groups that claim to be involved with such as this really amount to more of a high security area of the prison that everyone is already in, than support for any escape. At one point I used to recommend that people get to know Jan Cox, but he is now dead, a remarkable man whose tapes and papers could be very beneficial, but as with all such cases where someone has passed away and left a foundation or organization behind, be wary of any assumed authority on the part of the remaining hierarchy, and confront his material yourself if you are so inclined. The sign of the real deal is that they quickly free you from any notion of dependence on them. They are like a catalyst for your own profound inner alchemy, but not really necessary for the right genotype. On the other hand it is fun to be around other passionate creative non-hostile people with the same interest.

  • JacFlasche

    By the way billydee: Bravo

  • billydee

    thought without neurons and dialog with JacFlashe
    reply much appreciated, also thanks to the reviewers or editors of this comment place…
    It is all about inner alchemy. I agree.
    I am still intrigued and not certain that thought is impossible without a brain, but of course I must recognize that it is my brain thinking that-and what does it matter to me if my mind can exist outside of my brain….can’t be validated until I have no brain–and yes that’s telling in itself–, but I am certainly interested in enlarging the dimensional operation of this current brain in this physical location.
    your thoughts and ideas and statements are stimulating wonderful spheres of consideration and bringing some elucidation, I thank you for that.
    I will check out Jan Cox and I am not worried about dogma or hierarchal baloney.. my own ego is enough> I am not concerned with all the “spiritual” egos running around.
    the qualifiers and caution are well spoken.
    be well.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    jacflashe,

    J.B.S. Haldane (using terminology that is dated and which has assumed new meanings, but I utilize the originals rather than changing to the equivalent because I am just that way) famously wrote:

    “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, it is queerer than we can suppose.”

    Arthur C. Clarke called this Haldane’s Law. It certainly qualifies as a law in my book.

    You write:

    “The reality of existance if far more wonderful than anyone thinks it is, and far more wonderful than anyone is capable of thinking.”

    Now, maybe you knew Haldane’s Law and maybe you didn’t when you wrote that sentence. Either way, all I am trying to say is, I’m with you, Brother. I just don’t need to have experienced the fact of that queerness/wonder in a subjective manner to accept it as fact.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    Science, philosophy, or religion?

    Science asks How, studies data, and comes up with partial answers that may (and probably will) be modified over time.

    Philosophy asks Why, follows lines of thought as far as it can, and ends up with no answers but newer and more interesting questions.

    Religion asks Why, conjures up answers out of emotion, and hardens its answers into unquestionable dogma.

    I admire science, despise religion, and practice philosophy. To me, questions are always more fascinating than answers, and science gets full credit for being willing and able to challenge its own answers when faced with new data. Religion can’t tolerate the idea that it might be wrong; it is the weak ego of mankind, institutionalized. Philosophy doesn’t care, outside of ethical concerns, about right or wrong; it goes where it will, and at its best knows only that it knows nothing.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    For fun:

    From Douglas Adams, the proof that there is no life in the universe (not a quote but close):

    The universe being infinite, there are an infinite number of planets. However, not all planets contain life. An infinite number divided by a finite number is as near to zero as makes no damn-it. Therefore, there is no life in the universe.

    RIP, Douglas Adams. You always were the best answer to the common claim that atheists have no sense of humor.

  • millard_fillmore

    =>
    “I admire science, despise religion, and practice philosophy. Religion can’t tolerate the idea that it might be wrong; it is the weak ego of mankind, institutionalized.”
    =>

    Joshua, does that view on religions include the “religion of peace”? ;)

  • JacFlasche

    “Folmkus also seems to appreciate the wonder of this amazing universe. To echo his remarks I cite this great quote from the late Sir Arthur Eddington: “Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.”. . .”
    Posted by Dan, on September 10th, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    * * * * *

    “So Joshua I understand that my bombastic babbling is difficult, I deeply apologize for this. If I were a more clever person perhaps I could come up with an effective way to transmit the truly wonderful state of things. I can tell you this, and you can take it for what you will. The reality of existence if far more wonderful than anyone thinks it is, and far more wonderful than anyone is capable of thinking. It is more astonishing than if a fairy tale turned out to be physically true. However believing what I am saying or not is meaningless. If you are the right genetic type you can see for yourself, given the breathing space from your habitual modes.”
    Posted by JacFlasche, on September 10th, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    * * * * *

    ““The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, it is queerer than we can suppose.”

    Arthur C. Clarke called this Haldane’s Law. It certainly qualifies as a law in my book.

    You write:

    “The reality of existance if far more wonderful than anyone thinks it is, and far more wonderful than anyone is capable of thinking.”

    Now, maybe you knew Haldane’s Law and maybe you didn’t when you wrote that sentence. Either way, all I am trying to say is, I’m with you, Brother. I just don’t need to have experienced the fact of that queerness/wonder in a subjective manner to accept it as fact.”
    Posted by Joshua Hendrickson, on September 11th, 2010 at 8:04 PM

    Joshua, I read Dan’s post right after I posted my own, and almost felt it was synchronistic (that’s a joke), however it’s just my experience. It doesn’t matter if everybody in the world said it first or second or whatever. To say it is one thing, to see it is another. I can appreciate what you said about not needing to experience this to accept it as fact, and I fully agree with your conclusion that we are not in opposition. Nope, quite the contrary.
    Still, I’m sure you would agree that there are vastly desirable results in individual discovery. As in the case were someone creates a math equation that would solve a variable but consistent problem they were having at the “shop”. Beyond the feelings of satisfaction about accomplishment, and the fun of having had a creative thrust, they would have developed physically, neurally, differently than they would have if they had looked up a formula and memorized it’s proof for a test the next day. My emphasis must point to the physical aspect here, because it is easy to dismiss. If a person finds pleasure in intellectual discovery and/or other creative acts, that in itself makes them different physically.
    A few years ago somebody told me that homosexual males (and all women) have a more robust corpus callosumthan than do heterosexual males (it connects the hemispheres in our brains and allows them to communicate). Therefore: (he concluded) homosexuality was a genetic quality that is determined (in males) before one’s birth.
    I was of the opinion that because of recent evidence of the unexpectedly dynamic nature of the brain and it’s ability to rewire itself, any evidence that was the bases for his conclusion would have to be derived solely from virgin homosexuals who did not stimulate themselves. Otherwise we would never know if they were born with the more robust corpus callosum or if some behavior of homosexual males caused a thicker connection.

    This really irked my friend for some reason.

    I do have reason to believe that though the above three quoted statements are similar, and can mean very much the same thing, perhaps they didn’t mean exactly the same thing to the people who made them. While existence is certainly queer and strange, these two qualities don’t necessarily have a positive aspect to their meaning that wonderful does. I meant wonderful not strange. Though things are strange, I always sort of expected things to be strange, just because of the nature of the organic structure of the brain and the intrinsic problems in modeling concepts based on other concepts, and language and such secondary neural activity as is not connected with survival in the moment, the propensity to reify fantasies and all the strangeness of a culture that those within it are blind to etc., etc. It had to be strange, it would have been too strange if it wasn’t, like some inescapable Ozzy and Harriet dimension of enthropic doom hiding in a quagmire of bland repetition.
    I never expected it to be wonderful, not really. In fact, now that I consider it, that is one of the strangest thing about it.

    TT (tangent time)

    One time Omni mag. apparently tested a large group of scientists on general scientific knowledge. One of the questions that most of them got wrong went like this.

    An average 150lb male processes how much ATP through the Krebs cycle in a twenty-four hour period?

    A. 150 milligrams
    B. 15 grams
    C. 15 ounces
    D. 15 pounds
    E. 150 pounds

    answer below

    The answer is 150 pounds. Are we also too dynamnic and energetic to imagine also?

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    Millard Fillmore,

    yep.

    If it’s based on an imaginary yet somehow real deity with a role to play in creation, judgment, and lawmaking, who cannot or will not prove its own existence but instead demands to be recognized through faith alone, and who either needs to bestow love or be worshipped lovingly, then even a religion of peace is delusional.

    Not that I don’t consider the change of heart of so many Christian sects over the last two hundred years or so to be a bad thing. Those sects which fought slavery were certainly an improvement over the old bad models. I just don’t think those improvements were actually in the nature of religion itself. I think they are side-effects of the Enlightenment.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    jacflashe,

    you’re right in concluding that the three similar statements don’t necessarily mean precisely the same thing; that’s what language is all about. “Queer” meaning “strange” or “odd” definitely is not the same as “wonderful.” Anything truly new in our experience is strange. An open, questing mind will consider that strange new experience to be wonderful. It is in perception rather than in the perceived where meaning is to be found.

    I don’t get the OMNI question at the end; don’t have a grasp of ATP or Krebs Cycles. (My relative “expertise” in the sciences is limited to the fields of astronomy and physics.) But I did understand your references to Gurdjieff in an earlier post. Not that I am anything more than passingly familiar with the author of BEELZEBUB’S TALES TO HIS GRANDSON, but as an armchair philosopher, he does come within my sphere of interest.

    Are you familiar with the Zoroastrian concept of Frashokereti, or “Making Wonderful”? It is a divine concept that we human beings would do well to enact in the real world. I just finished writing a novel that, among other things, makes use of this concept as part of my overall theme on the imaginary but central role of God in our world.

  • JacFlasche

    “Anything truly new in our experience is strange. An open, questing mind will consider that strange new experience to be wonderful. It is in perception rather than in the perceived where meaning is to be found.”

    Posted by Joshua Hendrickson, on September 12th, 2010 at 2:54 AM

    What you wrote is a true enough in the ordinary world of the human mind.
    Firstly this thing being referred to is enormously profound and transforming, but it is also meaningless. It cannot be defined. It is not and cannot be a subject: such as the “subject of enlightenment.”
    Your statement indicates that we are not talking about anywhere near the same thing.
    What is being so inadequately referring to is analogous, at least in it’s least significant characteristics, to one’s first orgasm, additionally not only was it one’s first orgasm but was the most exquisite and profoundly liberating orgasm, and took place in places one didn’t even know they had, and it lasted forever and has no side effects or downside or fatigue factor and took place simultaneous with an expansion of consciousness into a higher dimension in which that-which-one-normally-is, is both seen for what it was in that dimension, and not present, because it had been superseded by a new form of perception, and perceptor, and perceived, all of which are self-luminous, and different not just in intensity but in form and function. All of this accompanied by overwhelming experience of compassion for all humanity and for oneself because it is now so evident that what one was until just moments before is ever so in need of such compassion, as is everyone. I have repeatedly used the term quantum leap of consciousness because it is at least accurate in the sense that it is not gradual and there is no possibility of being half-way there. One is either there or not. On, or operating at the normal associative level of human mentation no matter at what high or low level. Yet the above description, though seemingly hyperbolic, in no way begins to approximate the magnitude or shear physical ecstasy of the experience: so it may be a little strained to say that it is in the perception that the wonderful aspect of it comes into play. You may as well try to convince a horny stud bull that he is enjoying screwing because of how he interprets the experience through the romance novels he reads. NO. It is a tropism that has more in common with your bodies ability to heal itself than with reading a glossy magazine article about the new $5000 dollar a day yoga spa where you will find true serenity.
    You are remembering that it cannot be described and all this is but a crude attempt to convey the unconveyable? Put another way: enlightenment is a primal creature and not in any way derived from, or contained in civilization. It is not a psychological event. It has more in common with giving birth than it does the comprehension of some philosophical theory. More in common with a howling five dimensional orgasm, than kneeling in church. It is a physical function of the human organism that is rarely activated. Religions would like to claim responsibility for it, or at least some sort of relationship to it, but they have none but the most ancillary relationship to it and mostly not even that.

    Little is known about this phenomenon despite the mass of literature about it. An example of how little is really known, especially by the experts and priests, can be glimpsed when a certain Gopi Krishna awoke spontaneously but with “complications” which made his experience a living hell (physical complications). He proceeded to consult all the experts in the awakening of kundalini that he could find in India. None of these experts, even though some of them were famous for their wisdom in such matters, and whom were teaching other people how to awaken, had any idea what was going on with him. They were talking the talk but they were not walking the walk. In fact they didn’t even know where the path was, and had all their followers walking on treadmills. Gopi’s story is fascinating and quite revealing.
    I guess this little exercise has reached a point of diminishing returns. Best wishes to all, and to all a good night.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    jacflashe:

    well then.

    Maybe we’re not talking about the same thing. However, since you (and all others so enlightened) always claim it is unconveyable, indescribable, beyond language, etc., then I will never be certain that we are not. Without language there is no communication, and without communication, you may as well not have had an experience at all, so far as I or anyone else is concerned.

    The kind of enlightenment that you seem to be talking about has always struck me not as an external phenomenon but rather a particularly pungent brain fart. I know I’m being puerile, but I have done my share of lsd and shrooms, and while those experiences were ineffable and influential (very much so), in the end I had to dismiss them for what they are: neurochemical states boasting only as much substance and wisdom as the tripper brings to them.

    As a novelist, whose life is all about what words can convey and the imagination that inspires those words, it is difficult for me to comprehend or find interest in an ineffable experience. Such experiences, rare as they are, almost always seem to leave the enlightened one rather obsessed with them. This obsession can (but does not always) lead the enlightened one down a path that may well terminate in mental illness. I have seen it happen in one of my favorite authors. I am not equating enlightenment itself with madness, but neither can I in good conscience equate enlightenment with any force whatsoever beyond that of neurochemistry.

    You say that the experience is enormously profound and transforming … and that it is also meaningless. I am glad that you can see it that way; it vouches, I believe, for your ultimate good mental health.

    Perhaps the thread is dead, after all. Best to you … and keep posting here. You’re an interesting poster.

  • Steve

    Joshua posted the following which is
    awesome in it’s truth, simpleness and directness:

    “Science, philosophy, or religion?

    Science asks How, studies data, and comes up with partial answers that may (and probably will) be modified over time.

    Philosophy asks Why, follows lines of thought as far as it can, and ends up with no answers but newer and more interesting questions.

    Religion asks Why, conjures up answers out of emotion, and hardens its answers into unquestionable dogma.

    I admire science, despise religion, and practice philosophy. To me, questions are always more fascinating than answers, and science gets full credit for being willing and able to challenge its own answers when faced with new data. Religion can’t tolerate the idea that it might be wrong; it is the weak ego of mankind, institutionalized. Philosophy doesn’t care, outside of ethical concerns, about right or wrong; it goes where it will, and at its best knows only that it knows nothing.”

  • buddhaclown

    Mr. Mlodinow doesn’t seem to be saying that everything that exists came out of nothing, but rather that the universe came out of nothing — but that is because, woops, what we thought was the universe is actually only a tiny part of an even larger MULTIVERSE . . . that we can’t explain how it came to be . . . . Nothing has been answered, except that the mystery is no longer “why does the universe exist”, but rather why does the MEGAVERSE (along with the laws of quantum theory and gravity) exist????

    “Why something rather than nothing” isn’t answered by saying/implying that the laws of quantum theory make this possible . . . since, presumably, the laws of quantum theory would need to EXIST in the first place. Something coming out of nothing being a possibility due to quantum theory is not really something coming out of nothing, a causal connection still exists since if quantum laws did not exist neither would this possibility (i.e., the possibility of something coming from nothing is causally dependent on the prior existence of quantum laws). When they can explain how the laws of quantum theory and gravity came out of nothing (without referring to yet another set of pre-existing laws), then I’ll listen! But until then they are just dressing up the same age old question in new garb.

    But it is great to know that the deeper physicists dive into these questions, the stranger, more mysterious, and frankly more interesting the universe seems to become . . . almost religious.

  • Kyle

    Why not both time creation and god, we have created time ourselves and that has worked well enough and great things like penicillin and spam. I think it safe to say that man thinks way too much of ourselves. We are human and we do make mistakes and what if one of them was time it self, not the concept but the measurement itself. We have invested a great deal into it and that would be some egg on our face but it would not be the first time, we just take what we know as fact and do not question the foundation of what we use for the formula. You have to admit we have done some very dumb thing our time here. I just saying question everything we know first and then go after the unknown.

  • Wickendon

    What a huge diversity of views! I am reading the book (on Kindle Ipad App). I love all the thoughts!

    And what if other life that is “intelligent” as, or more than us! And here we are trying to communicate with them. And what if their Planet is, SUN sized and they are Huge creatures! And suppose that life in the Universe is like life on earth that mostly eats other life. Maybe we would just be protein powder for their blenders.

    But even worse!! Would be a scenario where these beings are BREAKING OUR PATENT AND COPYRIGHT LAWS and listening to illegally copied music! Ripping movies without paying the creators of this work! OMG. . . . For sure this is a reason to attack every system that could support other “Intelligent” life out there.

    • RalphnJana Pryse,PhI,PhjD:APL!

      Since we,as human beings,cannot know:Isn’t the best thing to do,
      as Paul,the ‘coiner’, of most of the N.ew T.estament,in the Holy Bible,Always,’THNX.LRD’! for ALL things?=>’1′,we must! :['~,^,v,0,1'=APL,'not,&,or,F,(alse),T,(rue)!']<=Amen!(+,for Andrew Magee,'AWomen,2'!)

      Jesus:THNX.LRD! That,'I Am',@55+,~married y.o.:Yet,[2Co1:10,NAS!]:Dr^s.Ralph^Jana Pryse,PhI,PhD:APL!
      [1Th5:16-18!]

  • http://litnet.co.za Gysbert

    Francis Collins quotes Einstein in his book, The Language of God “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind”(p 228 Pocket Books 2007), and this how I see it, science and religion in harmony. God created the universe and life in this part of his creation through evolution. We experience time not Him. At the time of the creation He was on the ‘outside’ of his creation where other ‘laws’ may apply. Hawking and friends is bound to ‘this’ universe and its laws and will never know what ‘laws’ exists outside of it. They have proved there is an ‘outside’ of the universe but of which they cannot know anything. How thencan they ask ‘Who created God’ ?

  • http://litnet.co.za Gysbert

    Francis Collins quotes Einstein in his book, The Language of God “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind”(p 228 Pocket Books 2007), and this how I see it, science and religion in harmony. God created the universe and life in this part of his creation through evolution. We experience time not Him. At the time of the creation He was on the ‘outside’ of his creation where other ‘laws’ may apply. Hawking and friends are bound to ‘this’ universe and its laws and will never know what ‘laws’ exists outside of it. They have proved there is an ‘outside’ of the universe but of which they cannot know anything. How then can they ask ‘Who created God’ ?

  • JacFlasche

    Joshua wrote: “Maybe we’re not talking about the same thing. However, since you (and all others so enlightened) always claim it is unconveyable, indescribable, beyond language, etc., then I will never be certain that we are not.”

    Of course you will never be certain of this. Unless you have such an experience youself. Then you will be most certain.
    Also, if you had such an experience, we would not be having this conversation, because though nothing accurate can be conveyed about it by those who have experienced such a higher dimension of consciousness the ordinary mind can say nothing that is not totally incorrect about it. All your statements about it are totally incorrect. Totally. They are quite like the understandings that a grade school child would come away with from a lecture on m theory.

    Joshua wrote: “The kind of enlightenment that you seem to be talking about has always struck me not as an external phenomenon but rather a particularly pungent brain fart. I know I’m being puerile, but I have done my share of lsd and shrooms, and while those experiences were ineffable and influential (very much so), in the end I had to dismiss them for what they are: neurochemical states boasting only as much substance and wisdom as the tripper brings to them.”

    Of course it is not an external phenomenon. Call it what you will. What you call it can only be misleading both to yourself and others. I also mentioned that such experiences that are available from drugs are not in the same league as an endogenous experience, not similar at all really. You had a singular opportunity here and decided to be nothing more than what you automatically are.

    All experience is neurochemical and to dismiss an experience as merely neurochemical is meaningless.

    Joshua wrote: “As a novelist, whose life is all about what words can convey and the imagination that inspires those words, it is difficult for me to comprehend or find interest in an ineffable experience.”

    If you had actually comprehended my posts, you would have noticed that I explained, just a bit, why such information is viewed as irrelevant by the automatic associative mind. The fact that someone does not find it interesting is expected. The fact that someone comments on their non-interest is pedestrian.

    Joshua wrote: “Such experiences, rare as they are, almost always seem to leave the enlightened one rather obsessed with them.”

    You should give some examples here, because as you agreed, we are not talking about he same thing and this statement proves it. The people who I am aware of who have had any access to a higher form of consciousness are all vastly sane. I mean they would not even indulge in the little insanities that people do all the time and consider normal. Like thinking the same thoughts over and over, or entertaining thoughts that you find unpleasant, or worrying etc.

    Joshua wrote: “This obsession can (but does not always) lead the enlightened one down a path that may well terminate in mental illness.”

    Since you have not had such an experience and from your writing it is pretty evident that you are not even aware of the direction that it lies in (since you equate it to the use of mushrooms)you are making distinctions and assumptions that exist only in your imagination about some fantasy category of self-deluded enlightened ones. I never spoke of enlightened ones, only of enlightenment. There is a big difference. The associative mind and the survival instinct passing as ego, cannot become enlightened. The higher dimension of human consciousness has nothing to do with a self-aggrandized ego. It is nothing personal. Try to understand that, it is nothing personal. There is no, “I’m enlightened and you’re not” aspect to it. There is no looking down on others as someone who is a genius in the ordinary sense could, because their ego has become inflated. If the ego even persist and recongeals, one thing that it knows for sure is that it is not capable of experiencing or bringing about or accurately commenting upon what occurred and it knows for sure it is nothing outside of its feedback loop. Of course this will not stop those who have not had such an experience from commenting on it or coming up with all kind of erroneous conclusions regarding the rumors they have heard.

    Joshua wrote “I am not equating enlightenment itself with madness, but neither can I in good conscience equate enlightenment with any force whatsoever beyond that of neurochemistry.”

    On this we agree. Anything that a human can experience has a neurochemical basis. It’s quite amazing that humans have such a limited repertoire. I understand the associative mind’s displease at hearing that it is inadequate and incapable of approaching this thing. That’s just the way it is.

    Joshua wrote: “You say that the experience is enormously profound and transforming … and that it is also meaningless. I am glad that you can see it that way; it vouches, I believe, for your ultimate good mental health.”

    At least you got the word right. “Meaningless”, though this does not mean it is not meaningful in the sense that you are implying. It means that you have no meaning that can define it. Neither does anybody.

    If the automatic associative mind attempts to approach this thing or draw conclusions about it from its own experience, nothing can really come of it except more and more of this kind of dialogue. You seem to think that the experience I speak of is something that you can comprehend though you have never had it. Interesting. Yet you find it necessary to “debunk” it for being only chemical. While the actual fact is that you should have nothing to say about it because you actually know nothing about it except hearsay. But that is the way of the ordinary associative mind, words can stand in for reality. This has nothing at all to do with words. And I mean that literally. Any words or thoughts that are about this thing come after the fact. They are the news at six about something that the newsreader has neither seen nor heard nor had any direct experience of. Not just for those who have never had such an experience, but it’s almost the same situation for those who have. Almost: and that is were the difference lies.

    I don’t expect everyone who reads these little posts to fall silent. I don’t even expect the normal mental interactions of the herd maintaining consensus reality to pause for a moment. They won’t. I do expect that the small percentage of persons who are able to relate my words to actual physical aspects of their functioning will find some indications of what is possible. Nothing spooky or spiritual at all, definitely neurochemical, yet the source of all humanities religious nonsense comes from the misunderstanding of this rare but ultrasignificant phenomenon.

  • http://Litnet.co.za Gysbert

    There is something amiss with your neurochemical make-up !

  • Ron

    Has anyone proven the intrinsic worth of human life? And won’t supply and demand have some bearing on that intrinsic worth when there are 62.3 billion humans on Earth?

    If science continues to lower death and infant mortality rates, it’ll happen eventually. At least we’ll have our pick of universes to flee to for resources.

  • Jay Bessey

    I have a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. I believe that the evidence is in favor of both organic evolution and the Big Bang. So, I hardly consider myself a creationist.

    And yet, in listening to this program, I have never had so strong an impression that the scientific interviewee and possibly science itself is overreaching. Even if we could unify the four forces into a single descriptive, elegant equation … even if we could find a theory that could describe the creation of something from this so called “nothing,” who is to say really how much closer we would be to the “Grand Design.”

    Science is very good at describing what we provisionally take to be physical “laws.” Ruling God out of the picture would seem to be entirely beyond its capacity or purpose.

    Another pet peeve of mine. I have many times heard the phrase “multiple universes” or multiverses. Huh? This seems like a distortion of the English language. Even if there were mulitple Big Bangs giving rise to multiple inflationary regions with sets of different physical laws, would not they not all be part of the same universe? (being all that there is)

  • RalphnJana Pryse,PhI,PhjD:APL!

    PTL! ‘I Am’ THNX.LRDing U,Jesus:that,’I Am’:Dr^s.Ralph^Jana Pryse,PhI,PhD:APL!/Jesus:’I Am’ THNX.LRDing U,that U,’allowed’ me, to,”Meet the Pharaoh”,(Fabian,-59?),who’d,’allowed’,her 2Co5:1,”Tent”, to be,’Used’,in such a way,that My,’I Am’,[Ex3:14!],would be able to in take those needed,’Meds’,which’ld ,like, ‘Force’,U,to,1Pe2:24,’Heal’,me,+Joe2:25,’estore’,my V.iable V.ocational K.nowlege!: which,PTL,THNX.LRD:U did,DO!,if only,the same way U,raised Isaac,from Death:U ~DO! IT;IT had to be done,’As a Type’![NAS];all the rest of the Trans.,say that U raise the dead,[He.11:19!],”Figuratively Speaking”!
    ie.,THNX.Jesus:U’ve,’allowed’,me to,’Out Give’:U! ‘I Am’ expecting U, Lord
    Jesus,to Ec5:5,”Fulfill”,Ur .5 of,’Our vow’,’[Ps50:14,15!],=>”get me married to Jana,from Moscow,Russia,that 1 of the Many Janas, that Had My Black cat,’Completeness’,[Fr?],N2r,(‘En2irety’,[Fr?]),w/in,ON:her lap!
    PTL:The USA Green card,app. U’ve given me;NOW,[He.11:1!]:How do I fill it out:Mainly,How am I gonna give IT to her?Jesus,Ur Word,ind.to me, that U, ‘Owe me’:My,’I Am’ has done my part,of our already,10X,’>’
    than a?ked,’Vow’;I then “+”‘ed some 700%,more,as,’Insurance’,(Pastor?),
    Bob Tilton,tried to tell me,DECADES ,ago,for,’Our Daddy’,[Ma6:9(?)],to get me married,=>APLholically Vocated!Decades,ago;The 2Co5:1,’Tent’,
    into which the,’I Am’,[Ex3:14!],of myself,is housed in,IS still,~married! Yet,He tries to claim,2Pe3:9,that He ain’t slow!/What can I,DO!, being 55++ y.o.,~married,>YET!, y.o.,to get married to Jana,she w/My,’Completeness’,w/in,ON:Her lap,from Moscow,Rus.Fed.?
    Mrs.Jana Pryse:come to the U.S.A.:Your U.S.A. Green Card awaits!PTL!!
    Jesus:’I Am’ THNX.LRDing U!<=[1Th5:16-18!]

  • Uchitrakar

                                    Philosophy is dead. Is Logic dead also?
     
    “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”
    -         Stephen Hawking in “The Grand Design”
    “As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
                                     – Stephen Hawking, Ibid
    Here three questions can be asked:
    1) Which one came first, universe, or laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    2) If the universe came first, then how was there spontaneous creation without the laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    3) If the laws of gravity and quantum theory came first, then Hawking has merely substituted God with quantum theory and laws of gravity. These two together can be called Hawking’s “Unconscious God”. Therefore we can legitimately ask the question: Who, or what, created Hawking’s unconscious God?
                       Not only this, but there are other problems also. If the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes spontaneously appearing from nothing, then initially there was nothing. Then wherefrom appear those laws of gravity and quantum theory to allow universes appearing spontaneously from nothing? In which container were those two laws of nature?
                   Now regarding the M-theory: I have already written something on multiverse theory (not yet published anywhere). There I have come to the conclusion that if there are an infinite number of universes, then only within that infinite number of universes there will certainly be at least one universe in which life will emerge. If the number of universes is only 10 to the power 500, then it is very much unlikely that any one of them will support life, because no universe will know which set of values the other universes have already taken, and if everything is left on chance, then there is every probability that all the universes will take only those set of values that will not support life. There will be no mechanism that will prevent any universe from taking the same set of values that have already been taken by other universes. There will be no mechanism that will take an overview of all the universes already generated, and seeing that in none of them life has actually emerged will move the things in such a way that at least one universe going to be generated afterwards will definitely get the value of the parameters just right for the emergence of life. Only in case of an infinite number of universes this problem will not be there. This is because if we subtract 10 to the power 500 from infinity, then also we will get infinity. If we subtract infinity from infinity, still then we will be left with infinity. So we are always left with an infinite number of universes out of which in at least one universe life will definitely emerge. Therefore if M-theory shows that it can possibly have 10 to the power 500 number of solutions, and that thus there might be 10 to the power 500 number of universes in each of which physical laws would be different, then it is really a poor theory, because it cannot give us any assurance that life will certainly emerge in at least one universe. So instead of M-theory we need another theory that will actually have an infinite number of solutions.                              
                          Now the next question to be pondered is this: How did the scientists come to know that an entire universe could come out of nothing? Or, how did they come to know that anything at all could come out of nothing? Were they present at that moment when the universe was being born? As that was not the case at all, therefore they did not get that idea being present at the creation event. Rather they got this idea being present here on this very earth. They have created a vacuum artificially, and then they have observed that virtual particles (electron-positron pairs) are still appearing spontaneously out of that vacuum and then disappearing again. From that observation they have first speculated, and then ultimately theorized, that an entire universe could also come out of nothing. But here their entire logic is flawed. These scientists are all born and brought up within the Christian tradition. Maybe they have downright rejected the Christian world-view, but they cannot say that they are all ignorant of that world-view. According to that world-view God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. So as per Christian belief-system, and not only as per Christian belief-system, but as per other belief-systems also, God is everywhere. So when these scientists are saying that the void is a real void, God is already dead and non-existent for them. But these scientists know very well that non-existence of God will not be finally established until and unless it is shown that the origin of the universe can also be explained without invoking God. Creation event is the ultimate event where God will have to be made redundant, and if that can be done successfully then that will prove beyond any reasonable doubt that God does not exist. So how have they accomplished that job, the job of making God redundant in case of creation event? These were the steps:  
    1)        God is non-existent, and so, the void is a real void. Without the pre-supposition that God does not exist, it cannot be concluded that the void is a real void.
    2)        As virtual particles can come out of the void, so also the entire universe. Our universe has actually originated from the void due to a quantum fluctuation in it.
    3)        This shows that God was not necessary to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going, as because there was no creation event.
    4)        This further shows that God does not exist.
                So here what is to be proved has been proved based on the assumption that it has already been proved. Philosophy is already dead for these scientists. Is it that logic is also dead for them?
       
      
              

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