Monday, May 30, 2011

Prove it!

In order to prove something you need evidence.  Commonly, evidential proof does not have to be 100% in your favor, for this is difficult in almost all fields.  The laws of chemistry and physics might be an exception of where evidence can be shown to line up consistently for all known situations.  For example, the speed of light is a constant at 186,000 miles per second.  We have no evidence of light speed varying.  It must be noted, however, that the hard sciences cannot answer all questions.  If fact, science has its limitations.

Proving your point can also be in the form of non-empirical evidence.  For example, the law of non-contradiction.  A cannot equal A and non-A at the same time, or an object cannot be both a square and a triangle at the same time.  When talking of evidence to prove a point, both reasoning and science can be used to arrive at an answer that has the best explanatory power.

Recently, Stephen Hawking's  made two bizarre comments.  One of the comments made is that the universe caused itself.  The second statement of Hawkin's is that heaven does not exist.  What's really interesting is that both statements are not statements based on the field (science) that Hawking's holds to so dearly, but are philosophical in nature. 

It is Hawking's belief that science should trump all other fields, so why would he make two non-scientific statements?  This belief system of science being the ruler of all knowledge is referred to as scientism.  Scientism comes in a couple of forms but basically states that science is the one and only worldview that can answer all the questions of life.  However, when you look at Hawking's two statements, there is absolutely no way he can prove either by way of science or the scientific method.  This empirical worldview assumes that only that which can be observed should count as knowledge.  But, what about our conscious awareness, how is this explained by ways of science?  What about the objective moral law that exist, does science have an answer to this?  The laws of logic which we know to be true, can in no way be tested in a laboratory.

To prove an argument, evidence must be given to tip the scales in your favor.  Various views can be examined to determine which has the best explanatory power.  When Hawking's made the statement that heaven does not exist, a buzz was generated on-line.  One questioner rightly asked of Hawking's - Prove it!


K. Turner said...

Great topic Shelby and thank you for the efforts you put into your blogs. It always keeps me thinking and digging in. I did not write this comment to be posted on your blog; I just thought I would share my take on Hawking with you.

First off, I do believe Hawking is one of, if not the, most brilliant, and ignorant, people of our time. Hiss intellect is unworldly, yet he denies anything beyond his understanding. Hence the comment Heaven does not exist. He can’t grasp the reality of what that would mean; therefore, it is easier to say science can’t prove it so it is made-up. I went looking through Hawking’s site for some explanation of his ideology. I found one article on the beginning of the universe, and what I found was disappointing to say the least. He pretty much said he did not have a solid answer at all; only that we are closer to finding out the truth (philosophical reasoning instead of scientific). In my research, or ignorance maybe, I interpreted his version as an erudite way of agreeing to causation but denying a creator, then quickly covering up his tracks. According to a public lecture on the topic posted on his website,, he explains the beginning as a mix between the quantum theory, theory of relativity, and an inflation theory. Which all are brilliant theories and they may fit fine, at least to him, as explanatory factors of expansion; nevertheless, they still evade the question regarding the finite beginning. To the best of my interpretation, he states that the scientific world is in its infancy relative to the knowledge of the subject. Some of the philosophical and scientific theories combined together might explain some unrepeatable anomaly; it’s just too soon to be sure though. This only states that at somepoint, in sometime, something miraculous happened. But he does not say it like that as that would bring religion into the equation. With that being said, and before I ramble on into some other subject irrelevant to your post, thanks for listening.

maradenn said...

There's no deep mystery here. I read both Hawking statements from a Guardian interview this Mar. He's referring to M-theory which is mathematical (which would enable us to understand the beginning of the universe), but there is also recent evidence one would expect to see of quantum fluctuations in the background radiation. The heaven comment simply follows from a causeless universe. The man has earned our deep respect for his accomplishments and I suspect, a life well lived.

K. Turner said...

I do not mean to be skeptical of your interpretation of the theories in questions but I DO believe it is a “deep mystery here”. The Membrane Theory, and its subsidiary theories, String and Superstring, are way out of my league; yet, through minimal research, it is not hard to find a conscience about them. They are all hypothetical and have never been proven. If there were factual evidence that 0-1 dimensional subatomic particle, or quark, were out there, we do not have the technology to view them. We may never have the technology as there is no height or width making them nearly impossible to detect. Furthermore, there are still debatable parts to the equation including squarks, selectrons, and other super symmetric particles. There is also the problem of the dimensions beyond the four observable dimensions, including time. There is speculation to the necessary requirements for the other 6-7 dimensions. Granted, if these theories did become proven science they might give an understanding for the variations of changing matter; but, it is not the end all to beginning of matter. I know this is a red hearing and heaven is not provable either so I will conclude with this.
I am not out to take away anything from the great science of Hawking; it’s his beliefs and his spreading them like they are science I struggle with. Hawking cannot conclude no more than I can, beyond our own personal beliefs, that there is or is not a Heaven. Someday Hawking’s brain will shut down like a computer; but unlike a computer, Hawking has a conscious, or what I believe a soul, and that energy will transfer somewhere. I pray for Hawing and those of similar belief. God wants us to rejoice in what He has prepared for us. He shows His presence all around us and what a sad day it would be to die without recognizing Him.

maradenn said...

Granted that Hawkings personal beliefs are debatable when he makes them public. I am sympathetic to his beliefs because I suspect we both feel no need for supernatural explanations. I also respect your beliefs and your right to say them. I believe we can live in harmony so long as we respect our right to live our lives as we see fit.