Paul Davies Says Stephen Hawking’s New Book Doesn’t Quite Get Rid of God Completely

Physicist Paul Davies, reviewing, for the Guardian, Stephen Hawking’s new book, The Grand Design  (Bantam 2010), says this:

The laws of physics can explain, he says, how a universe of space, time and matter could emerge spontaneously, without the need for God. And most cosmologists agree: we don’t need a god-of-the-gaps to make the big bang go bang. It can happen as part of a natural process. A much tougher problem now looms, however. What is the source of those ingenious laws that enable a universe to pop into being from nothing?

And here we get into trouble, for Stephen Hawking favors the multiverse hypothesis, in which perhaps infinite universes, each with different physical constants, make different worlds, and spawn (maybe via black holes) new ones, one of which just happens to be ours. But, as Paul Davies notes, the multiverse has its own problems:

The multiverse comes with a lot of baggage, such as an overarching space and time to host all those bangs, a universe-generating mechanism to trigger them, physical fields to populate the universes with material stuff, and a selection of forces to make things happen. Cosmologists embrace these features by envisaging sweeping “meta-laws” that pervade the multiverse and spawn specific bylaws on a universe-by-universe basis. The meta-laws themselves remain unexplained – eternal, immutable transcendent entities that just happen to exist and must simply be accepted as given. In that respect the meta-laws have a similar status to an unexplained transcendent god.

In other words, on the multiverse hypothesis, behind the laws of physics that we experience there must be still more fundamental meta-laws, but then where did they come from? If you are going to be an atheist, these meta-laws, as Davies emphasizes, must be:

. . . eternal, immutable transcendent entities that just happen to exist and must simply be accepted as given.

That is, “given” in the same sense that those who believe in God treat the mind of God as stopping the chain of causation, and thus as being “given.”

Paul Davies concludes his review this way:

According to folklore the French physicist Pierre Laplace, when asked by Napoleon where God fitted into his mathematical account of the universe, replied: “I had no need of that hypothesis.” Although cosmology has advanced enormously since the time of Laplace, the situation remains the same: there is no compelling need for a supernatural being or prime mover to start the universe off. But when it comes to the laws that explain the big bang, we are in murkier waters.

And those “murkier waters” leave room for God, don’t they?

Maybe, just maybe, “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2, KJV). And maybe the wisdom of God, personified in Proverbs 8:22-31, reflects a correct intuition about physical law:

The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was with him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.

In other words, before there was a universe, maybe there was a principle in the mind of God, and maybe that principle has attended the creation from toe (the first matter) to tip (the first human being).

As an agnostic, I’m not saying it happened this way; I’m just saying it might have happened this way. Based on the “murky waters” attending the origin of the laws of nature, it’s not a ridiculous alternative surmise to the atheist multiverse.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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26 Responses to Paul Davies Says Stephen Hawking’s New Book Doesn’t Quite Get Rid of God Completely

  1. Thankyou! I’ve been reading/thinking about Cosmology and quantum physics a bit recently, so this fits in nicely.

    My present understanding is that the multiverse idea is just that – an idea, which science might not ever be able to confirm, as we can’t devise any experiments to “get to” another universe. Intriguingly, I’m also reading Anthony Flew’s recent book on his new (Deistic) belief that a God exists – he posits the actual laws of the universe as a sufficient argument to design as one of the motivations for his change of beliefs.

    Isn’t Paul Davies a scientist who is a Christian? Or am I mixing him up with someone else?

    Jonathan from Spritzophrenia

    • santitafarella says:

      Spritzo:

      Paul Davies is not a Christian, but he did write a book called “The Mind of God” a few decades back. It launched his reputation as a science writer. He’s been thinking about these issues for a long time.

      —Santi

    • Bill Baker says:

      Davies is a Deist, I actually emailed him once several years ago and asked him of his theology and if he would accept the label Deist, he said yes, that it is closest to his view. Though he tries to take an AGNOSTIC-deist approarch to his science writings, he has deist inclinations; and judging from the way he phrases his views he could be said to be PanDeistic or PanenDeistic

  2. Hahaha! You’ve got George Harrison’s Hindu worship as the addendum 😀 I put the same track up on my blog a few weeks back. I confess I like it, tho I shouldn’t.

    For a less… um… evangelistic track, try this one

    (Gayatri Mantra)

  3. Mike says:

    I’ve always thought it took more faith not to believe in a creator. The apostle Paul talks about how creation points to God in his letter to the Romans. It is worth reading if you have the time.

    • santitafarella says:

      Mike:

      It may be a more intuitively pleasant and easy thing for humans to believe (that there is a mind before matter that just set the physical laws), but we don’t really know, do we?

      The multiverse hypothesis may be correct.

      Isn’t the most sensible position agnosticism?

      —Santi

      • Anonymous says:

        Actually, no. All agnoticism requiries is a closed mind. Easiest of all propositions. People reject the possibility of God because it infringes on their right to their own autonomy. Our souls tell us that we are more than animal

      • santitafarella says:

        Anon:

        Nice way to straw man my position. How is agnosticism a “rejection” of the idea that God exists? Is agnosticism about life on Mars a rejection of the possibility of life on Mars?

        As for motive surrounding non-God belief (a refusal to surrender autonomy), why is that a bad motive?

        And what’s your motive for believing in God?

        Shouldn’t any motive of any sort make us more cautious in our conclusions—more agnostic?

        —Santi

  4. mary says:

    I love George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord!”

    It echoes the Bhagavad Gita, where Arjuna speaks to Lord Krishna of his longing to see His Universal Form, called Vishwarupa. Lord Krishna reveals himself, and Arjuna is so overwhelmed that he begs Krishna to resume his mortal form.

    It’s also the devotee’s longing, echoing over the course of a lifetime of spiritual practices.

    Thanks!

    • santitafarella says:

      Mary:

      And doesn’t Krishna open his mouth and show Arjuna whole multiverses in there?

      —Santi

      • mary says:

        Santi,

        That story doesn’t come in the BG. Krishna as a infant cries and his mother sees the universe within his mouth. That vision remains veiled, and Devaki continues to raise him as a normal child.

      • santitafarella says:

        Thanks for the clarification. I recall in the Gita a revelatory moment that scares the crap out of Arjuna and I thought I remembered a mouth in the scene. Maybe it was just Krishna transforming his whole body.

        —Santi

  5. Ron Krumpos says:

    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.

    • santitafarella says:

      Ron:

      I like your Einstein quote, and your metaphysical troping of Einstein’s equation opens this question: is the universe heading for a revelation—something as historically disjunctive as human consciousness is from matter?

      —Santi

  6. Ron Krumpos says:

    Santi,

    Quoted from “An Idealist View of Life,” by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam 1932, 2003)
    Note: He was the President of India 1962-67, Vice President 1952-62 and a Professor at Oxford University 1936-52. In 1962, I was introduced to Dr. Radhakrishnan by John Kenneth Galbraith, then the U.S. Ambassador to India. He met with me in Lucknow and Delhi and taught me that you can be active in the world without being of this world.

    “It is the aim of religion to lift us from our momentary meaningless provincialism to the significance and status of the eternal, to transform the chaos and confusion of life to that pure and immortal essence which is its ideal possibility. If the human mind so changes itself as to be perpetually in the glory of the divine light, if the human emotions transform themselves into the measure and movement of the divine bliss, if human action partakes of the creativity of the divine life, if the human life shares the purity of the divine essence, if only we can support this higher life, the long labour of the cosmic process will receive its crowning justification and the evolution of centuries unfold its profound significance. The divinising of the life of man in the individual and the race is the dream of the great religions. It is the moksha of the Hindus, the nirvana of the Buddhists, [baqa of the Muslims] the kingdom of heaven of the Christians [the messianic age of the Jews]. It is the realization of one’s native form, the restoration of one’s integrity of being. Heaven is not a place where God lives but an order of being, a world of spirit where the ideas of wisdom, love and beauty exist eternally, a kingdom into which we all may enter at once in spirit, which we can realize fully in ourselves and in society though only by long and patient effort. The world reaches its consummation when every man knows himself to be the immortal spirit, the son of God, and is it. Till this goal is reached, each saved individual [who has actualized divine union] is the centre of the universal consciousness. He continues to act without the sense of ego. To be saved is not to be moved from this world. Salvation is not an escape from life. The individual works in the cosmic process no longer as an obscure and limited ego, but as the centre of the divine or universal consciousness embracing and transforming into harmony all individual manifestations. It is to live in the world with one’s inward being profoundly modified. The soul takes possession of itself and cannot be shaken from its tranquility by the attractions and attacks of the world.”

  7. trishothinks says:

    Santi,….hmmmm, sounds like you are turning into a deist? (maybe a little?)

    Trisho

    • santitafarella says:

      Trisho,

      You think? Maybe.

      In terms of deism v. atheism, as an agnostic I’d say that deism is the more appealing position. If atheism is true, afterall, then the universe doesn’t, in any ultimate sense, really cohere, and that’s a sad thought (to think that we live in a random chaos containing chance patches of order, and not a cosmos).

      But deism has its big problem as well: if deism is true, it means that a mind exists before matter but (oddly) doesn’t speak to us about what it’s up to or what we should do.

      Alternately, if theism is true, it means that God both creates and speaks, but all the religions claiming to have a revelation from God are unconvincing to me (to put it politely).

      So I guess I’m still holding my ridiculous tight rope walk with agnosticism.

      And to what is the rope tied that keeps me balanced and not dropping into the abyss of nihilistic despair? I would say that it is an intuition that somewhere, out there beyond the rope that I can see, there lies an ontological mystery—a big truth that I would be pleased to discover, and actually be comforted to encounter. In the meantime, I sustain myself on little truths and diversions, and try to explain myself to those curious people who wonder what I’m doing up here.

      —Santi

      • Ron Krumpos says:

        Sorry for this silly observation:

        An agnosticclaims neither faith nor disbelief in God. A true mystic is a gnostic who feels the certainty of personal knowledge. Saints don’t bother with words; they just live in and for the divine. Is an atheist a theist, but won’t admit it?

      • Bill Baker says:

        Classical Deism has those problems and holes, but modern Deism- specifically PanDeism accounts for everything, fills all the holes, and answers those problems.
        I’m a PanDeist myself

  8. Udaybhanu Chitrakar says:

    Philosophy is dead. Is Logic dead also?

    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?

  9. Udaybhanu Chitrakar says:

    In olden-golden days the saying was: When there was nothing, there was God. When there will be nothing again, there will still be God.
    But then came the scientists and changed everything. The above saying also changed to this: When there was nothing, there were quantum laws. When there will be nothing again, there will still be quantum laws.
    These quantum laws are spaceless, timeless, changeless, eternal, all-pervading, unborn, uncreated and immaterial. Only that these laws lack consciousness.
    These quantum laws are spaceless, timeless and immaterial, because when there was no space, no time and no matter, there were still these quantum laws. (Vilenkin’s model)
    These quantum laws are all-pervading, because these laws act equally everywhere.
    Quantum laws are scientists’ God.
    Amen.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Have you ever wondered why we are here? Did the universe just “come into being” just because? Is there a specific reason why? Why are the laws of physics what they are? Scientists can’t explain that. The reason scientists give us is that they are what they are. Which is a dumb reason in my opinion which doesn’t make you think deeper. Don’t scientists have faith in what they believe the laws of physics are? Yes they do. They have to believe that a basketball and a golfball will drop at the same time rate as the other. Why though? Plus there are so many reasons why there IS A GOD. Examples are nature, people, the question WHY, etc. I won’t go into detail. Just a thought provoking reply. Deuces.

  11. Elias says:

    This was a response to Mr. Davies statement – science holds to evolution because there is not a more definitive alternative as to our origins…
    Mr. Davies,
    It’s understandable I’ll give you, by default, to derive an origin of US such as evolution for lack of a more definitive alternative we could all clearly understand without contradicting science or reason, as ST. Augustine put it regarding a literal interpretation of a proclaimed testament… In truth, the ‘evolution’ of man is dissolved by the phenomenon of the entity of words itself. – Another time perhaps.
    Dilemma, before billions could endure the belief of a ‘questioned’ testament as to the origin of our existence, we must first know in our heart that the ‘source’ of this heard word is real or a reality… Otherwise, the validity of its truth is rendered void or vain… We have nothing that the ‘worlds’ view of understanding can clearly see as of yet with regard to a more definitive alternative. An evidential stalemate, from the layman to the scholar…
    Please, bear with me. To have a shot at understanding this introduced truth, let’s consider the widely accepted by science ‘impact theory’ as to the origin of our man named moon. It can be seen on a discovery channel video “the day the moon was gone”. The video in short shows the significance of the moon for sustaining life here on this ‘one and only’ planet we inhabit by supposing it vanished and the subsequent catastrophe in its disappearance and thus the explanation as to its origin. The Science community, accepts a mars size mass impacted this planet causing the coalescing of the subsequent debris forming our now orbiting moon, lastly the scientists go on to deduce, had the impact missed the planet or had not occurred complex life forms, specifically us, would not exist…
    Now this introduces ‘two’ new implications as to the planet and its inhabitance in addition to our previous understanding as to the origin of our existence – The Big Bangs universe, to our current planet and the eventual evolving of man to present day since Lemaitre and Darwin…
    The first – In spite of the 14 billion years of the big bangs universe, ‘something else’ had to take place ‘inducing’ complex life form on ‘this’ planet. Until or unless this impacting event occurred there would be no life, regardless of existing universe. With all material matter, protons, neutron, hydrogen gases etc. available, light years of existence was void, producing no complex life, and had that random rock missed this random rock, who knows how many more billions of years the universe would ‘still’ be dead or irrelevant to natural life…
    The second implication – the impact caused a ‘divide’ to this single mass of molten rock, ‘resulting’ in two necessary orbiting masses, ‘creating’ a new life sustaining environment, unique to the previous void one… I have not said or asserted anything; as you know, this is peer reviewed science…
    However, I submit; this life sustaining ‘dividing event’ was testified to and identified by name, thousands of years ago by the ‘literal account’ of Genesis 1, before it was ‘falsely interpreted’ an account as to the origin of the universe, that in fact, predates the literal life sustaining dividing event of this planet by some 10 billion years or so…
    The testified literal account of this dividing event identified by name 9 times in the account alone was declared millenniums ‘before’ the development and technology of modern science could prove or implicate such a dividing event of the planet to be literally true and thus verifying the words of the ‘only source/creator’ who could have ‘known’ of such a creation to be factually true and none else…
    Otherwise; the idea or notion of such a divide or detachment of anything ‘above’ the stand point of view from earth, to anyone born of a woman on this planet ‘thereafter’, would not have been possible for them to imaging or conceive ‘without’ the testament itself, with us from its foundation…
    Lastly; our problem is evidently this – The genesis account proclaiming a ‘literal’ dividing event, identified by name 9 times in the account of the event alone, is ‘unknown to bear record’ of the two introduced scientific implications of a dividing event theory – ‘due to the fact’ that the worlds view of understanding and/or belief, is only aware of an ‘invalidating interpretation’ of a creation account as to the origin of the universe. Thus, rendering the belief held and the account itself false, with no alternative…
    To restore the false belief held of an accused invalidating interpreted account as to the origin of the universe –
    Clearly see the newly ‘revealed’ scientific implications that account for a ‘literal dividing event’ of the planet that was ever since then called earth to justify the truth of its Creators very word and declares the glory of his hands work without contradicting science or reason and thus receiving the spirit of its truth in your heart, empowering you to with calm endure, even unto the end…

  12. Bill Baker says:

    Davies is a Deist, I actually emailed him once several years ago and asked him of his theology and if he would accept the label Deist, he said yes, that it is closest to his view. Though he tries to take an AGNOSTIC-deist approarch to his science writings, he has deist inclinations; and judging from the way he phrases his views he could be said to be PanDeistic or PanenDeistic

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