Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Stephen Hawking on Discovery's curiosity

  1. Aug 30, 2011 #1
    Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    I recently watched Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "Curiosity" and found his assertion that a grand designer could not exist based on the logic that there was no time before the big bang troubling.(Due to the fact that the universe before the big bang was an infinitesimal black hole, and time does not exist in the black holes that we can observe due to immense gravitational forces)

    I will not pretend to understand the intricacies of the science involved in his proposition, but, I do find a flaw in his logic that I hope you can clear up for me.

    Based on the assertion that time did not exist before the big bang(and therefore no creation or event could occur before that) wouldn't that same logic lead us to the conclusion that a "spontaneous" event that caused the big bang would also be impossible because of that same absence of time? It seems to me that his argument proves itself to be untrue because without time there could be no "event" to cause anything.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 31, 2011 #2
    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    I think the old oft-toted notion of spacetime "quantumly fluctuating" into existence out of "nothing" is a misleading concept and these media whores like Stephen Hawking, Paul Davis & Michio Kaku seem to be regurgitating it all the time = why?

    Just because a particle can pop in & out of existence in an empty vacuum, how does this equate to an entire universe popping into existence out of sheer nothingness? By that same logic, it can "pop out" of existence anytime.
     
  4. Aug 31, 2011 #3

    Chronos

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    Hawking is just making a pointless and unsupported commercial for the sterile, 'godless' version of science. It has no validity. Science does not exclude, or require a god.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2011
  5. Aug 31, 2011 #4

    Chalnoth

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    Actually, it does, through the exclusion principle. Basically, this says that if the laws of physics describe everything in our universe (which they do), then there is no god that has any relevance to anything we might ever do because there is nothing for a god to do. This argument applies to anything supernatural.

    It should be no wonder, given this argument, that people try to stuff their own idea of a god into our gaps in knowledge, such as the birth of our universe, but this is fundamentally illogical.
     
  6. Aug 31, 2011 #5
    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    From what I've seen, I'd goten the impression that asking what happened before the big bang, is like asking what is north of the north pole. Any answer would require redefining what "North" or "Time" even mean.
     
  7. Aug 31, 2011 #6
    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    The fact is that we just don't know if the instant of big bang is truly the beginning of time.
    See http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2007/04/27/how-did-the-universe-start/" [Broken]:

     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  8. Aug 31, 2011 #7

    Chalnoth

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    Well, that depends. On a few things. It is conceivable, for instance, that our particular "bang" was just the start of our region, and that our region was born from a previous one. There's also the point to be made that the singularity in our theories is an artifact of General Relativity. A quantum theory of gravity is likely to show that the singularity isn't actually singular, and that there may be some stuff that happened before the time we might infer, using General Relativity, that there was a singularity.
     
  9. Aug 31, 2011 #8
    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    I very much enjoyed Steven Hawkings book "The Grand Design" which I just finished and will reread. I had come to the conclusion myself that the Universe seems to be very finely tuned to allow the possibility of complex systems to develop and evolve. This seemed to me to be the biggest justifcation for thinking the universe to be the work of an intelligent designer. Hawking agrees but then counters with this universe is just one example of many possible universes in a Multiverse of possible universes and thus no creator is required. It makes sense but are there stronger reasons to believe in the Multiverse vs a divine Creator? Also this just passes the problem on to the next level where we can ask what created the Multiverse or in the case of God what created God. The only way out of this loop is for an ultimate Creator or God that has always existed, but this is something which I have trouble with because every time we think that a creator is necessary for something we dont understand it turns out that none is required.

    It seems that Stephen is a believer in M-theory and that this is the Grand Design. Can such a theory or model ever be tested?
    My one complaint is that throughout the book Stephen discusses tried and tested and known Physics, but then he moves on to modern theories, which I think gives them more credibility than they presently deserve, some being just conjecture. I would advocate a kind of rating system for Physics theories which rates how certain we currently are in them to avoid such confusions. We cant just rely on how recently they were proposed or how many papers have been written on them.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2011
  10. Aug 31, 2011 #9

    Chalnoth

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    This argument is fundamentally flawed, however, because the designer is, by definition, more complex than what is designed. So positing a designer just makes things worse in terms of fine-tuning, not better. It also doesn't help that this explanation lacks all predictive power.
     
  11. Aug 31, 2011 #10
    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    But there lies, in my personal opinion, the key to solving the paradox about the pre-existence: What happens when you get to the North Pole? You reach a singularity. Not a physical singularity, but a singularity in our description of Nature, geography in this case. The rules change when the singularity is breached, so that "laws" about direction outside the singular point, become inapplicapable. Something new, something qualitatively different is required to describe the geography beyond the singular point, laws that do not contain the words "North" and "South". So too I think is the case for the Big Bang. The thread author writes:

    "Based on the assertion that time did not exist before the big bang . . . wouldn't that same logic lead us to the conclusion that a "spontaneous" event that caused the big bang would also be impossible because of that same absence of time? It seems to me that his argument proves itself to be untrue because without time there could be no "event" to cause anything."

    But he's relying on our rules, our laws of physics about time, events, and causes, to describe something that is beyond what I think is the singular point of the Big Bang and those terms may not be applicapable: There may be no "time" in the pre-existence but something different that is perfectally applicapable to describing it may be devised by the human mind . "Nothing" may in fact be there and can "create" "something" like our Universe by virtue of the qualitatively different state that arises through the singular breach.

    In my opinion, we may not be capable of applying the current diction of time, space, matter, cause and effect, and other phenomena of our Universe to the pre-existence. Something qualitatively different may be required because it is separated from us by a singular point like the North Pole is separated from descriptions like "north" and "south".

    Also I'd like to add this viewpoint resolves the paradox of "turtles all the way down:" at some point, a critical point is reached (a singularity) and the rules change. Beyond that, the concept of "turtle" and "standing on" no longer applies, and anyone that demands "something else" is simply no longer following the rules.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2011
  12. Aug 31, 2011 #11

    Chalnoth

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    Well, only if we use a spherical coordinate system. There are other coordinate systems that have no singularity at the north pole.

    But regardless, General Relativity states unequivocally that there is a singularity in the finite past. Granted, almost nobody in physics believes General Relativity is correct here, but this does indicate that we likely need a quantum theory of gravity to describe our very early universe. The idea that it turns out to be like the north pole is a particular hypothesis for the way our universe may have begun, one of many.
     
  13. Aug 31, 2011 #12
    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    Does GR say that the universe couldn't have ever morphed into the singularity over time- perhaps as matter ceased existing either by getting ripped apart by expansion or all of it being consumed by black holes?
     
  14. Aug 31, 2011 #13
    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    I am not convinced that the laws of physics describe everything, at least not correctly. The interior of a black hole comes to mind, as does the question of how consciousness arises from an arrangement of non-sentient particles. Heck, I don't even know how many dimensions we live in, nor have I heard a great explanation of what time really is or why it exists. But on that note I have to quote Yogi Berra, who when asked "what time is it?", replied, "You mean now"?
     
  15. Sep 1, 2011 #14
    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    That's the biggie.
     
  16. Sep 1, 2011 #15
    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    Actually, the laws of physics don't necessarily describe everything in our universe. They only describe things which are empirically observable and repeatable. I see right away two areas that this leaves for God and/or supernatural forces to act.

    1. Qualia, which are not empirically observable. If the Judeo-Christian God existed, he could cause us to experience things differently from how the firing neurons alone would prescribe (the mechanism of which is not described by the laws of physics, either), and any ECG taken of the patient at the time need be none the wiser.

    2. Miracles, which are not repeatable under controlled conditions. If the Judeo-Christian God existed, he could do whatever he wanted to the universe - spawn matter/energy out of nothing, screw up gravity in a particular body of water, etc. Anything he does in an inconsistent manner would be classed as miracles because they can't be repeated in a controlled environment. The laws of physics do not cover inconsistent behavior such as this. If a consistency behind a certain behavior were to be discovered, it would cease to be a miracle by definition; some law would be drawn up to describe it instead.
     
  17. Sep 1, 2011 #16

    Chalnoth

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    Our current laws of physics, no. But that is irrelevant to the argument. As long as there exist some laws of physics that accurately describe reality, the argument holds.

    The interior of black holes probably needs a theory of quantum gravity.

    Consciousness, however, most certainly does not require any new laws of physics, as consciousness does not access any energies even remotely close to the energy levels we have tested current physics. That we do not understand how to go from the laws of physics we know to understanding the very complex configuration of matter that is the human brain is irrelevant. We do know that our laws of physics apply at these temperatures with this sort of matter. And that is enough.

    These are pretty much irrelevant points.
     
  18. Sep 1, 2011 #17

    Chalnoth

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    Yeah, so you're basically asking us to believe in magic? Sorry, no dice.
     
  19. Sep 1, 2011 #18
    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    That is ENOUGH????????

    My GOD, man!!! Are you not a SCIENTIST????
     
  20. Sep 1, 2011 #19

    Chalnoth

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    *sigh*

    Why do so many people have difficulty with this? If there were any laws of physics that we don't know that impact consciousness, our current tests of said laws of physics would have detected the discrepancy long ago.

    This, ultimately, stems from the fact that matter is made out of particles that interact with one another in specific ways, and different particles of the same type are completely indistinguishable from one another. To put this more explicitly: our brains are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons, and we know to a very high level of accuracy how protons, neutrons, and electrons behave, well up into the tens to hundreds of billions of electron-volts energy scale. But at the temperature of our brains, only interactions of a few electron volts are available for routine reactions.

    You can potentially claim that there might be some additional long-distance reaction that is present in our brains, but then that interaction would have been detected long ago in our study of crystals (because it is often possible to calculate the behavior of crystals). The fact that we can't calculate the behavior of our brain from the laws of physics we know isn't any reason at all to believe we may need some new laws of physics. The experiments we have so far are utterly conclusive: our current laws of physics are sufficient. Anything else is just magical thinking.
     
  21. Sep 1, 2011 #20
    Re: Stephen Hawking on Discovery's "curiosity"

    No, I was simply pointing out that there are venues for a God to interact with this world (you made the claim that there was no way for a god, if one existed, to be at all relevant to this world).

    As for actually believing in miracles, there are only two ways for that to happen: to witness/experience one yourself, or to hear a clear and convincing firsthand account from someone you trust. Unless one of these has happened to someone, I most certainly don't expect them to believe in miracles.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook