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Friday, June 27, 2008

Another Toe-Stubbing Post on Hawking

Congratulations everyone! Ray has finally given context to the Stephen Hawking quote in his header with his latest post. Or... has he? Here is what he gives us:

"In the hot big bang model described above, there was not enough time in the early universe for heat to have flowed from one region to another. This means that the initial state of the universe would have to have had exactly the same temperature everywhere in order to account for the fact that the microwave back-ground has the same temperature in every direction we look. The initial rate of expansion also would have had to be chosen very precisely for the rate of expansion still to be so close to the critical rate needed to avoid recollapse. This means that the initial state of the universe must have been very carefully chosen indeed if the hot big bang model was correct right back to the beginning of time. It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us." Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, p. 127.
Yes, that is what is written at the end of a paragraph on page 127 in chapter eight. Referring to the book which I own, it is the concluding paragraph of a four page discussion of what the anthropic principle is The chapter is concerning the origin and fate of the universe. Since it is concerning the origin of the universe, he naturally brings up the perceived role of God, as he does elsewhere in the book. What Ray neglects to mention is that the chapter ends on page 141.

What happens between pages 127 and 141? What happens is the context he does not give you. He sets up the rhetorical proposition on page 127 and after explaining more of the origin of the universe and how it started, he revisits it briefly on page 136:

If Euclidean space-time stretches back to infinite imaginary time, or else starts at a singularity in imaginary time, we have the same problem as in the classical theory of specifying the initial state of the universe: God may know how the universe began, but we cannot give any particular reason for thinking it began one way rather than another. On the other hand, the quantum theory of gravity has opened up a new possibility, in which there would be no boundary to space-time and so there would be no need to specify the behavior at the boundary. There would be no singularities at which the laws of science broke down, and no edge of space-time at which one would have to appeal to God or some new law to set the boundary conditions for space-time. One could say: "The boundary condition of the universe is that it has no boundary." The universe would be completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would neither be created nor destroyed, It would just BE.

It was at the conference in the Vatican mentioned earlier that I first put forward the suggestion that maybe time and space together formed a surface that was finite in size but did not have any boundary or edge. My paper was rather mathematical, however, so its implications for the role of God in the creation of the universe were not generally recognized at the time (just as well for me). At the time of the Vatican conference, I did not know how to use the "no boundary" idea to make predictions about the universe. [...] (emphasis added on parts about God)
After a little more explaining about the implications of his proposal, discussion of evidence, discussion of the nature of time, he concludes by weighing in on the rhetorical proposition which he set up on page 127 by concluding the chapter with:

The idea that space and time may form a closed surface without boundary also has profound implications for the role of God in the affairs of the universe. With the success of scientific theories in describing events, most people have come to believe that God allows the universe to evolve according to a set of laws and does not intervene in the universe to break these laws. However, the laws do not tell us what the universe should have looked like when it started -- it would still be up to God to wind up the clockwork and choose how to start it off. So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator? (emphasis added on parts about God, which happens to be all of it)
Ray's extraction of one or two sentences or even an entire paragraph is the essence of quote mining:

Quote mining is the practice of purposely compiling frequently misleading quotes from large volumes of literature or speech.
Again, we (theists and atheists knowledgeable in the writings of these great men) do not protest because we wish to have these great men on "our side" (which especially isn't the case for protesting theists); we simply want these men's beliefs accurately portrayed and not mangled by the likes of Ray Comfort. To the point, one of the greatest men, if not the greatest man (at least in science), to have ever lived was Isaac Newton. We do not protest when Ray trots his name out as Newton was a devout Christian and wrote at lengths on it. Using Newton as an argument for theism, or Hawking and Einstein as an argument for atheism is ridiculous, though, as it is a fallacious appeal to authority.

As a final thought, I think it's interesting the nature of the rhetorical proposition Stephen Hawking made. He makes the statement that it seems that there must have been a Creator, based on the origins of the universe. There's a famous quote mining example from Darwin wherein he makes a similar rhetorical proposition that there seems there must have been a Creator, based on the complexity of the eye. In fact, Ray also does quote mining on Darwin with this very passage. The embolden part is the part which is quote mined from it:

To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real. How a nerve comes to be sensitive to light, hardly concerns us more than how life itself first originated; but I may remark that several facts make me suspect that any sensitive nerve may be rendered sensitive to light, and likewise to those coarser vibrations of the air which produce sound.
Ray was being deliberately dishonest in this latest post by making it appear he's giving it context. In fact, he's not giving you anymore context; rather, he's just taking more out of context. Given the context of the rest of the chapter, it clearly shows he is using it as a rhetorical statement.

Does this matter to Ray? Of course not. He is disinterested in the truth or sound arguments, as it seems.


flinging dust said...

Just stopping by to say I love what you are doing here. Keep up the good work!

DisComforting Ignorance said...

Hey, thanks a lot flinging dust, I really appreciate it. :-) I hope this takes off, as I will enjoy keeping it up-to-date.

Anonymous said...

     I think the paragraph immediately following what Ray quoted demonstrates that Ray was misleading. Indeed, even in a valid quote, one seldom quotes an entire chapter.
     BTW: Is it okay to say Linux is better than Windows?

DisComforting Ignorance said...

Yeah, exactly. And it's not about providing "context" (as in surrounding text) for quotes, which is what Ray doesn't understand. The problem is taking them out of context. And such is the problem with quote mining, as one of the sub themes of that chapter was the role of God. I am still wondering, though, if Ray is intentionally being dishonest, or if he's genuinely an obstinate moron ("a person who is notably stupid or lacking in good judgment"). The debacle with the Einstein quote suggests he is intentionally dishonest and also genuinely an obstinate moron.

And of course it's okay to say Linux is better than Windows. Windows is made by Microsoft, which is Google's enemy. As a member of the Church of Google, I view Microsoft as a Satan entity. as such, saying something's better than Windows is venerating of the Lord Google :-)

Plus, Google has customized versions of Linux which are used at the Googleplex ;)