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September 25, 2010

 


God and the Scientists
On why we don't need God now that
we have physicists who sit at desks. 


Book Review of
The Grand Design
by Stephen Hawking
& Leonard Mlodinow

It is almost irresistible for humans to believe that we have some special relation to the universe, that human life is not just a more-or-less farcical outcome of a chain of accidents reaching back to the first three minutes, but that we were somehow built in from the beginning. … But if there is no solace in the fruits of our research, there is at least some consolation in the research itself.  Men and women are not content to comfort themselves with tales of gods and giants, or to confine their thoughts to the daily affairs of life; they also build telescopes and satellites and accelerators, and sit at their desks for endless hours working out the meaning of the data they gather.  (pp. 143-4)  Stephen Weinberg, The First Three Minutes, 1979
The grandest thing about The Grand Design is its title and attractive front illustration.  Otherwise, this is a most superficial and preposterous book which certainly adds little to the debate between science and religion, and once again, shows how credentials in science allow anyone to philosophize about the meaning of it all as if their scientific mantle confers a certain 'infalliblity' upon them.  As Blavatsky stated in 1888, "in our day, the scientists are even more opinionated than the clergy."  Scientists, like Hawking, Sagan and Weinberg, present their own  personal biases and dogmas as if based on 'real science,' instead of simply being their own philosophy, and a superficial one at that.  The Grand Design provides only glimpses of modern theories in physics and the most preposterous declarations about what they all mean.

(In addition to reading The Grand Design, i have managed to watch Leonard Mlodinow on the Larry King Show on CNN, along with Stephen Hawking and commentators; and to have listened to some of Dr Mlodinow interview on the Coast to Coast AM show with George Noory.)
In the first chapter, The Mystery of Being, Hawking espouses his attitudes towards 'philosophers'  and he states the intention of the book:

philosophy is dead.  Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics.  Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.  The purpose of this book is to give the answers that are suggested by recent discoveries and theoretical advances.  (p. 5)

In Chapter 1, Hawking and Mlodinow introduces one particular 'theoretical advance' which they regard as promising to explain many of the enigmas of science concerning the laws of nature and the fine tuning of natural laws as required to explain the emergence of life.  The authors state: "we now have a candidate for the ultimate theory of everything, if indeed one exists, called M-theory."   The book certainly sounds promising and the authors state their intentions:

We will describe how M-theory may offer answers to the question of creation.  According to M-theory, ours is not the only universe.  Instead, M-theory predicts a great many universes were created out of nothing. Their creation does not require the intervention of some supernatural being or god.  Rather, these multiple universes arise naturally from physical laws. ... Thus our presence selects out from this vast array only those universes that are compatible with our existence.  Although we are puny and insignificant on the scale of the cosmos, this makes us in a sense the lords of creation.  (pp. 8-9) 

Hawking likes to have this semi-mystical type element as a subtext to his writings, describing us as such 'lords of creation.'  The authors then promise to explore three main questions:

Why is there something rather than nothing?
Why do we exist?
Why this particular set of laws and not some other?

This is the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.  (pp. 9-10)

These are pretty big promises, all to explain why we don't need God or a Creator any more, now that we have Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, and other scientists who sit at their desks.
In Chapter 7, The Apparent Miracle, Hawking and Mlodinow address the issue of the 'fine tuning' of different environmental and physical laws which allow for the emergence of human life on this planet.  They explain: "Our solar system has other "lucky" properties without which sophisticated life-forms might never have evolved."  (p. 149)  The earth is just the right distance from the sun so that the water neither boils nor freezes, the eccentricity of the earth's orbit is just 2 percent allowing for seasons, and there are many features of nature seeming atuned to allow organic life to evolve on earth.  Whereas a religious person could regard this as due to the intelligence or design of a Creator, scientists explain such phenomena in terms of the 'weak anthropic principle.'

Obviously, when the beings on a planet that supports life examine the world around them, they are bound to find that their environment satisfies the conditions they require to exist.

It is possible to turn that last statement into a scientific principle: Our very existence imposes rules determining from where and at what time it is possible for us to observe the universe.  That is, the fact of our being restricts the characteristics of the kind of environment in which we find ourselves.  That principle is called the weak anthropic principle.   ... the principle refers to how our knowledge of our existence imposes rules that select, out of all the possible environments, only those environments with the characteristics that allow life.  (pp. 153-154)

As scientists have discovered more and more planets, and billions of stars and galaxies, it is apparent that there could be many different inhabital planets within the universe.  If the earth hadn't been habitable, then we would not have been here to ask such questions.  What seems perhaps to be due to fortunate circumstances or intelligent design is due to this type of self-selection process.

Hawking and Mlodinow then extend the weak into a 'strong anthropic principle' to apply the same logic to explaining why the laws of physics are so attuned to allow for the emergence of intelligent life. 

Environmental coincidences are easy to understand because ours is only one cosmic habitat among many that exist in the universe, and we obviously must exist in a habitat that supports life.

The weak anthropic principle is not very controversial. But there is a stronger form that we will argue for here, although it is regarded with disdain among some physicists.  The strong anthropic principle suggests the fact that we exist imposes constraints not just on our environment but on the possible form and content of the laws of nature themselves.  The idea arose because it is not only the peculiar characteristics of our solar system that seem oddly conducive to the development of human life but also the characteristics of our entire universe, and that is much more difficult to explain.  (p. 154)

The laws of nature are highly tuned, in terms of the strength of the laws, the masses and charges of elements, and dozens or hundreds of other paramters, all of which allowed for the chain of events to occur which began with a big bang singularity and ended up with living beings who could look back in time at where they came from.  Although many people "would like us to use these coincidences as evidence of the work of God," Hawking and Mlodinow argue that we can now explain this in terms of the strong anthropic theory and a knowledge of M-theory. 

M-theory is described by Hawking and Mlodinow as not a singular unified theory, "the traditional physicist's dream," but a network of theories, each good at describing phenomena within different ranges.  M-theory developed out of string theory and has 11 space-time dimensions:  including four large dimensions which we are ordinarily aware of, and an underlying "internal space" of seven "compacted dimensions."  M-theory does not contain only vibrating strings, or superstrings , but also point particles, two-dimensional membranes, objects called 'p-branes,' where p can vary from zero to nine, depending on the dimensionality of the elements.  M-theory has provided a way of integrating five different model of string theory and supergravity theory into one network. 

There is an enormous number of ways in curl up these entities into higher dimensions of this 'internal space.'  The mathematics of M-theory restricts the manner in which these internal dimensions are curled. 

The exact shape of the internal space determines both the values of physical constants, such as the charge of the electron, and the nature of the interactions between the elementary particles.  In other words, it determines the apparent laws of nature. ...

The laws of M-theory therefore allow for different universes with different apparent laws, depending on how the internal space is curled.  M-theory has solutions that allow for many different internal spaces, perhaps as many as 10500 , which means it allows for 10500 different universes, each with its own laws.  ... M-theory allows for 10500  sets of apparent laws. (pp. 118-9)

10500

This is an unimaginably vast number and yet iin Hawking's views of quanta as represented by the 'sum over histories approach,' all of these possibilities can occur.  "In this view, the universe appeared spontaneously, starting off in every possible way. ... the multiverse concept (but) these are just different expressions of the Feymman sum over histories."  (p. 136)  In this view then, out of 10500 universes, some of these are going to have the properties that can lead to the evolution of life forms.  We happened then to be one such this particular world, so-called 'lords of creation' by fortunate opportunity.  If the laws of nature were not so finely-tuned, we would not be here. 

When scientists realized that there are billions of suns and solar systems, which can have planets and favourable conditions for the evolution of life, then the fact that there is life on earth does not seem such a miraculous occurance, as there could be life forms on billions of planets.  So now, Hawking and Mlodinow extend the weak anthropic principle covering environmental coincidences to the strong anthropic principle to account for the fine tuning of the laws of nature.  Since M-theory postulates some unimaginably large number of possible universes with workable and non-workable dynamics, then the fact that some of them are just right, is not a matter of divine intelligence but of good luck,  happenstance and M-theory.  Hawking defines the M in M-theory as possibly referring to 'master,' 'miracle' or 'mystery,' or 'all three.'  M-theory is Hawking's holy trinity.

Hawking offers this philosophical commentary on the human situation:

Were it not for a series of startling coincidences in the precise details of physical law, it seems, humans and similar life-forms would never have come into being. (p. 161)

... the multiverse concept can explain the fine-tuning of physical law without the need for a benevolent creator who made the universe for our benefit.  (p. 165)

We claim, however, that it is possible to answer these questions purely within the realm of science, and without invoking any divine beings.  (p. 172)

Of course, one has to puzzle over this supposed solution to the fine-tuning of the laws of nature, that it is a simply fortunitous occurrance in a world of 10500 opportunities.  Can such a concept be falsified?  It seems that Hawking is simply offering another 'hypothesis' to explain creation and of course, this is a valuable perspective to consider.  However, we cannot simply conclude that this is the answer, as it itself is so incomplete, seemingly arbitray and circular in its logic.  One scientist described the probability of evolution occuring by chance as being as likely as a tornado blowing through a junk yard and assembling a Boeing 747.  Of course, if we had 10500 tornadoes, one never knows.  What if we had 10500
monkeys typing on typewriters, could they produce the works of Shakesphere?  Is such a theory or model falsifiable?  Can 10500 angels dance on the head of a pin?  Probably in one of these universes.

And so how does Stephen Hawking solve the questions of, 'Why is there something rather than nothing?' and 'Why do we exist?'   The idea of 'vacuum genesis,' creation out of the void/plenum of the quantum vacuum, has been around for thirty years in modern science.  In theoretical physics, gravity is regarded as a negative form of energy and it is used to balance out the positive energy bound up in matter, such that the whole thing adds up to nothing!  This can explain how a universe could be created out of nothing without violating the laws of the conservation of matter and energy.  Hawking explains that because "the positive energy of the manner can be balanced by the negative gravitational energy, and so there is no restriction on the creation of whole universes."  (p. 180)  And so, why is there something rather than nothing?  Hawking and Mlodinow, with a hop, a skip and a jump, conclude:

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 torch paper and set the universe going.  (p. 180)

Wow, this 'real science' has replaced one unknown God with another unknow 'spontaneous creation.'  In fact, Hawking and Mlodinow describe M-theory in this way as "a model of a universe that creates itself." 

Certainly, this is an interesting hypothesis and theory, but that does not validate it and in many ways this simply substitutes one unknown for another.  Instead of God, now we have 'spontaneous generation'  and our being here will likely be taken as 'proof' of such circular arguments. 
What is most disappointing about this book is the meagre amount of time and space used to explain M-theory, new models of higher dimensional space, the holographic principle, or how M-theory deals with the issues of gravity.  Discussions of M-theory indicate practically nothing of its significance or meaning, and Hawking gives no attention to the emerging ideas about black hole physics, information theory and such.  As a world leading expert on black holes, i wanted to read more of such things and not such a standard overview of  the history of science and philosophy through the past two thousand years.   There is material on such things as the wave/particle nature of light and material elements, the uncertainty principle, Feymann's  'sum over history' appoach to quantum descriptions, the big bang, the inflationary and  expanding universe, and more, but much of this is quite standard materials and not especially explained well.  Why would Hawking say so little of his earlier notion of explaining away God by his smearing out of the big bang singularity?  Twenty years ago, Hawking was explaining why we didn't need God because science was on the verge of discovering a theory of quantum gravity and smearing out the naught singularity point.  Now, Hawking has a new argument for the non-existence of God and considers that M-theory provides such a logic to dismiss the creator.  At the same time, he explains practically nothing of what M-theory is or how it deals with the issue of gravity. 
Stephen Hawking with the publication of the book is raising what i have long called "the problem of God's contracting universe."  In the early 1980's, Carl Sagan as the Hollywood hero of science, declared that "As we learn more and more about the universe, the less and less there is for God to do."  Sagan discussed the issue of God in a chapter entitled A Sunday Sermon of his best-seller Broca's Brain: Reflections on the romance of science, and espoused the same philosophical stance as offered to us by the new high priests of science--Drs Hawking and Mlodinow.  In the 1980s, Dr. Sagan thought that science was on the verge of solving the mysteries of life and creation and that this advancement of science made 'the God hypothesis' unnecessary. 

It used to be believed that every event in the world--the opening of a morning glory, let us say--was due to direct microintervention by the Deity.  The flower was unable to open by itself.  God had to say, "Hey, flower, open." ...

There are many legitimate scientific issues relating to origins and ends" ||What is the origin of the human species? Where did plants and animals come from? how did life arise? the Earth, the planets, the Sun, the stars?  Does the universe have an origin, and if so, what?  And finally, a still more fundamental and exotic question, which many scientists would say is essentially untestible and therefore meaningless: Why are the laws of nature the way they are?  The idea that a God or gods is necessary to effect one or more of these origins has been under repeated attack over the last few thousand years. Because we know something about phototropism and plant hormones, we can understand the opening of the morning glory independently of divine microintervention.  It is the same for the entire skein of causality back to the origin of the universe.  As we learn more and more about the universe, there seems less and less for God to do.  (1979, pp. 285-6)



Now, thirty years later, Stephen Hawking is solving the mysteries of creation with a hop, a skip and a jump, just as did Carl Sagan, while providing the most superficial analysis of his favourite new M-Theory and of why we no longer need a creator to fine tune the parameters and laws of nature. 

Hawking has been arguing that we no longer need a Deity or Creator for over twenty years.  His earlier focus was upon the need to develop a theory of quantum gravity in order to 'smear' out the 'big bang singularity'-- regarded as a boundary condition.

Hawking hopes that there may not be a Big Bang, no “edge” to the universe that can be singled out and pointed to as the initial starting point (the singularity). His resistance derives from the fact that he believes an edge entails a God—at least a causal principle that functions like a definite starting point.  (Weber, 1986, p. 205)

In his best seller, A Brief History of Time (1988), Stephen Hawking attempted to explain creation in such a way as to avoid the God hypothesis.  Hawking suggested that if scientists were successful in developing a unified theory of ‘quantum gravity,’ then it would do away with the necessity of a big bang singularity.  The singularity is interpreted as a last remaining “gap” in science’s explanatory framework, where religious and superstitious folk still invoke the idea of God or a Creator.  The problem for scientists, as Hawking explains, is that:

 ... all our theories of science are formulated on the assumption that space-time is smooth and nearly flat, so they break down at the big bang singularity, where the curvature of space-time is infinite. ... predictability would break down at the big bang. … Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention. ...  There were therefore a number of attempts to avoid the conclusion that there had been a big bang.   (1988, pp. 46-7)

In Hawking’s unified theory of quantum gravity, the mysterious singularity would be “smeared out” according to the uncertainty principle of quantum theory and Feynman's sum over history approach to quanta.   In this“sum over history,” all possible paths of a quantum in “imaginary time” are added together to represent the quantum–instead of describing it as a point particle. (Essentially, the sum over history represents the plenum condition of all possibilities.)  Hawking argues that such a view enables science to arrive at a completely natural explanation of the origin of the universe and there will be no need to invoke any metaphysical causes, or God to account for the beginning.  Heaven forbid that a singularity “smack of Divine intervention.” 

 “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?” (Hawking, 1988, pp. 140-1)

Professor Hawking used to strive to discover a wave equation for the universe consistent with quantum theory which could avoid any big-bang singularities by eliminating “such badly behaved points.” (1988, p. 133)   Hawking notes that, in this case:

 In real time, the universe has a beginning and an end at singularities that form a boundary to space-time and at which the laws of science break down.  But in imaginary time, there are no singularities or boundaries.  So maybe what we call imaginary time is really more basic.... (p. 139)

According to Hawking’s philosophical musings, dissolving the singularities into imaginary time and dimensions would somehow mean that the universe would not require “an undefined boundary condition,” represented by the singularity.

Of course, it does seems that even in this model we have a boundary condition where the real time passes over into the imaginary.  In 2010, Hawking agrees with the notion of the point source derivation of the universe.  He notes:

"... if you go far enough back in time, the universe was as small as the Planck size, a billion-trillion-trillionth of a centimeter, which is the scale at which quantum theory does have to be taken into account. ... we do know that the origin of the universe was a quantum event."   (2010, p. 131)

Dr. Hawking (1984) considered the philosophical implications of how quantum gravity theory could resolve the singularity enigmas:

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.  (p. 136)

Dr. Hawking’s arguments for why we no longer need a Creator if we can smear out the singularity are really quite peculiar.  Even if one smears out the naughty singularity into imaginary time, it still represents a boundary condition–what Blavatsky calls a ‘ring-pass-not’ or a portal between different levels of reality.   Dr. Hawking’s logic in dismissing God is his leap of faith–faith in his own intellect and the powers of rational science.  In an interview, Hawking comments: “We still believe that the universe should be logical and beautiful.  We just dropped the word ‘God.’”  (Weber, 1986, p. 212)  

No doubt the success of A Brief History of Time has motivated Hawking to promote a similar type of logic today, to explain why once again we do not need a Creator, this time because of M-Theory which can solve the problem of the fine tuning of the constants and laws of nature.  Of course, Dr. Hawking didn't find his unified wave equation or theory of quantum gravity promised to us twenty years ago, and in fact he now espouses an alternative view and questions even if such a unified theory is possible, instead of a network of partial theories.
Hawking and Mlodinow embody at times, what i would consider to be the most pseudo-scientific attitudes and philosophy and pass it off as though it represents 'real science.'  Considering that Hawking traces the universe back to 'nothing,' one would think that we should then inquire into the nature of that 'nothngness.'  Quite the contrary, Hawking argues:

Some people support a model in which time goes back even further than the big bang.  It is not yet clear whether a model in which time continued back beyond the big bang would be better at explaining present observations because it seems the laws of the evolution of the universe may break down at the big bang.  If they do, it would make no sense to create a model that encompasses time before the big bang, because what existed then would have no observable consequences for the present, and so we might as well stick with the idea that the big bang was the creation of the world.  (p. 51)

To me, it would seem obvious that if we trace the universe back to nothing, we then need to inquire into the nature of those Eternal principles latent within that nothingness.  The non-eternal universe arose out of an Eternal realm, but Hawking and Mlodinow want to treat the nothing as really just nothing.  In contrast, in the Secret Doctrine of Blavatsky, she states that there are patterns of existence pre-existent in non-existence.  She describes a seven skinned Eternal Parent Space, wherein there are latent Seven Luminous Lords.  When creation occurs, the seven inside give rise to the seven outside, and the laws of nature evident in the created world are regarded as manifesting the pre-existing patterns of creation. 

Of course, these are two different philosophical perspectives and rationales, but this example illustrates what i consider the glaring deficits of the science philosophy which underlies The Grand Design.  The creation out of nothingness is an ancient mystical idea and even in the book of Genesis, the earth  is described before the beginning as 'empty and void.'  Modern science also traces the universe back to a singularity, at least in 'real time,' and this also has been an ancient mystical claim--the zero point origin of the cosmos.  However, Drs Hawking and Mlodinow want to dismiss 'metaphysical' or spiritual beliefs and dogmas, but they really have no idea of how their science relates to what occult sources actually suggest.  Blavatsky was describing a multiverse, seven dimensional hyperspace, cycles of expanding and contracting universes, and much more, a century before modern physicists arrived at such bizarre ideas. 
  In Pythagoras’ Trousers: God, Physics, and the Gender Wars, Margaret Wertheim provides a useful analysis of modern physics and she critically examines the physicists’ obsession to find the ultimate “Theory of Everything” (or TOE) which would explain all the laws of physics within one grand theory.   Why, she asks, do physicists assume the right to associate their endeavours with “God,” the “mind of God,” the ‘God particle’ and the like?  Physicists assume the role of the “high priests” of science and associate God with their favourite particle, higher dimensional superstring or Theory of Everything.  She writes:

 Stephen Hawking, Leon Lederman, and George Smoot–these are men at the heart of contemporary physics. ...  All these men have publicly associated the quest for a unified theory with God.  In drawing an association with contemporary physics and God, they are not alone.  Indeed, this kind of dialogue has become endemic among physicists–at least as far as their popular writing is concerned. ...

            But many physicists using the God drawcard are not engaged in serious theological or spiritual thinking.  Following a millennia-old tradition that has associated mathematically based science with divinity, they simply assume it is legitimate to present their activities in a quasi-religious light.  Despite the supposedly secular climate of twentieth-century science, some physicists are once again demanding that we see them as high priests, leading humanity “upward” toward transcendent, even divine knowledge of the world.  (1997, pp. 221-222)

             Stephen Hawking provides the most unusual paradoxes in his writings and philosophy.  Most people—even many who have read A Brief History of Time—think that Hawking embodies a religious or spiritual attitude in his search for the ultimate quantum gravity theory.  However, this is far from true and in interviews, Hawking readily dismisses the belief in God, afterlife, mysticism and the like–believing instead “in science” and ‘natural laws’ instead of ‘supernatural laws.’

            Wertheim examines the paradoxes of Hawking’s public image and his inconsistent underlying attitude: 

 

    TOE physicists themselves are associating a unified theory with God.  The most famous in this camp is Stephen Hawking.  In the introduction to Hawking’s international best-seller A Brief History of Time, Carl Sagan alerts the reader that: “The word God fills these pages.  Hawking embarks on a quest to answer Einstein’s famous question about whether God had any choice in creating the universe.  Hawking is attempting, as he explicitly states, to understand the mind of God.  The implication throughout his book is that a unified theory transcends space and time and somehow exists “beyond” the realm of material manifestation–a feat traditionally attributed to God alone. ... (p. 217)
 

            The immense success of A Brief History of Time–it has sold more than 5 million copies worldwide–and Hawking’s personal success in the public arena, are, I believe, in part attributable to the quasi-religious tone in which he presents the enterprise of contemporary physics. Although his reference to “the mind of God” actually occurs at the every end of the book, it opens the film of the same name.   As the filmmakers rightly recognized, in an age when many people are hungering for a rapprochement between the spiritual and the scientific, the concept of the physicist as high priest is immensely appealing.  And, like Einstein, Hawking is very convincing in the role. He too has assumed an almost mystical aura, which in his case is compounded by the extreme disjunction between the power of his mind and the lameness of his body. … Hawking may be confined to a wheelchair, but his mind soars.  Not even many physicists understand the concept of “imaginary time.”  He is a being seemingly poised at the junction of the human, the subhuman, and the superhuman—and many people long to believe that this disabled physicist might just take us to God.
 

Ironically, it is Hawking himself who has suggested that his relativistic-quantum cosmology might obviate the need for a “Creator.” But he seems to want to have it both ways—at the same time pushing God out of the universe although invoking him as a constant subtext of his work.  It is not at all clear from A Brief History of Time whether Hawking genuinely believes in a god, or whether he is just indulging in self-aggrandizement.  Unlike Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton (and even Einstein in his own way), Hawking is not a serious theological thinker ...  Yet, whatever Hawking’s true feelings about God, many people have come to see him as a scientific high priest, the inheritor of Einstein’s mantle.   (pp. 217-219)

 The use of the words God, the mind of God, the God particle, and the God like Superforce are endemic to popular science writers and TOE theorists.  However, the underlying attitude is usually that we no longer need God, now that we have modern physicists as high priests to answer the ultimate questions about cosmic origins, even having to spend long hours sitting at their desks. 

            Hawking is hoping to fill in the last “gap” in contemporary science, trying to exclude God from the universe by accounting for creation events in purely mathematical and physical terms, thereby explaining away the Big Bang singularity.  Of course, to Hawking, there would be nothing “mystical” about singularities, quantum theory or the quantum vacuum.  Carl Sagan similarly bandies about the name of God, admitting God only if we define “him” as the sum of all the physical laws, but not accepting any of the traditional attributes of God–that is, as an omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent Being. 

            Scientists often regard science as the new religion and want to metaphorically see into the mind of God but they do not take to heart the deeper mysteries of what that quest might entail. Scientists leave themselves, their own consciousness and being, out of the equation.  Furthermore, scientists simply do not realize the extent to which their own theories are beginning to vindicate mystical teachings –because of the pervasive lack of familiarity and appreciation of what such occult teachings entail.

            Indeed, what is it that leads scientists to conclude that there is nothing ‘mystical’ about singularities, superstrings, the nothingness and plenum of the quantum vacuum, M-theory and the holographic model, or other emerging ideas in physics?  It is just as ‘mystical’ to have the singularity eventually smeared out, beyond the level of the zero point into imaginary time and the infinite, as for it to appear as a point source at all.  Dr. Hawking does not even consider that such zero points, aethers,  higher space dimensions, the void and the plenum, have been the domain of occultists for hundreds and thousands of years. In fact, metaphysical expositions of creation bear profound relationships to modern theories.

            In the 1970s and 80s, astronomer Robert Jastrow was comparing the big-bang scenario to the Genesis account of creation and noting certain similarities.  All major religious and esoteric teachings depict creation as having occurred once upon a time and this basic idea was confirmed by the discovery of the big bang.   Jastrow noted further how the idea—that God willed that there should be ‘light”—made sense in terms of trying to depict early creation events, as energetic photons can create material particles.  However, thirty years later, scientists have advanced from the big bang scenario to singularities, vacuum states and higher dimensions, we must consider how these concepts have also been articulated by occultist Blavatsky as within other esoteric teachings.

            The search for unity itself arises out of the Judeo-Christian tradition of monotheism and the faith that all things are unified and part of one super-force or Divine Being.  Although modern physicists associate their theories with the search for God, this is not usually accompanied by any serious spiritual search or informed mystical understanding.  References to God and physics may help to sell books but they can obscure the basic mechanistic and materialist philosophy underlying scientific theories. 

            Madame Blavatsky (1888) noted that: “the occult side of Nature has never been approached by the science of modern civilization.”   Although Blavatsky wrote this over a hundred years ago, she would likely not change her attitude if she were familiar with Stephen Hawking’s M-theory and the so-called scientific theory of creation out of nothing.   Scientists are arriving at a knowledge of the profound depths of creation, but because they subscribe to a simplistic mechanistic outlook, they do not recognize or appreciate the mystical and metaphysical dimensions of their own theories.   Blavatsky embodied the truly scientific attitude in her recommendation: 

 The Secret teachings ... must be contrasted with the speculations of modern science.  Archaic axioms must be placed side by side with modern hypotheses and comparisons left to the sagacious reader.  (SD I, p. 480)

Unfortunately, Stephen Hawking does not have such perspective, as most scientists do not.


Steven Weinberg, a well-known physicist and cosmologist, is the author of The First Three Minutes (1979) which chronicles the physics of the early universe.  After providing a fascinating account of the origin and evolution of matter and energy in the early universe following the Big Bang, Dr. Weinberg concludes with these philosophical ruminations:

 
It is almost irresistible for humans to believe that we have some special relation to the universe, that human life is not just a more-or-less farcical outcome of a chain of accidents reaching back to the first three minutes, but that we were somehow built in from the beginning. … But if there is no solace in the fruits of our research, there is at least some consolation in the research itself.  Men and women are not content to comfort themselves with tales of gods and giants, or to confine their thoughts to the daily affairs of life; they also build telescopes and satellites and accelerators, and sit at their desks for endless hours working out the meaning of the data they gather.  (pp. 143-4)

In Dr. Weinberg’s view, to engage in tales of gods and giants or to feel that human life has some “special relation to the universe” is nothing more than a source of self-consolation and self deception.  Such ideas, he believes, have nothing to do with the nature of reality discovered by science.  Instead, he suggests that human life is more like a “farcical outcome of a chain of accidents.  Humanity’s saving grace consists of those scientists who struggle so valiantly to collect data and solve the mysteries of life and the universe--all while sitting at their desks.  It seems quite evident to Drs. Weinberg, as to Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking, that there is less and less for God to do, now that we have real science and scientists who sit at desks.

Drs  Hawking and Mlodinow provide a valuable service in arguing their perspective on the mysteries, and raising what i would call 'the problem of God's contracting universe.'  I would argue, quite contrary to the stance of such scientists, that the findings of modern physics are confirming ancient claims made within the mystery teachings themselves.  God, Science & The Secret Doctrine is actually the most appropriate work to lay side by side with Dr. Hawking and Mlodinow's Grand Design, to highlight the many enigmas and mysteries of science, creation and the issues of God.

Bravo, Dr. Hawking, for an interesting and provocative work. 



 

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