Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Stephen Hawking's last book

In his last book Brief Answers to the Big Questions Stephen Hawking said:

"No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realisation: there is probably no heaven and afterlife either. I think belief in the afterlife is just wishful thinking.
It flies in the face of everything we know in science. I think that when we die we return to dust".

So his "profound realisation" wasn't some sort of mystical insight, or moment of enlightenment, but rather because science tells us there's no God or an afterlife.

It might be convenient here to repeat what I've said in other blog posts on this science rules out an afterlife and God contention (in this blog see relevant posts here, here, here, here, here esp part 7, here and in my other blog see here, here).  Science deals exclusively with the quantifiable or measurable (at least currently). Consciousness cannot be quantified or measured. Hence consciousness, at least as science is currently conceived, escapes the purview of science. This is regardless of whether consciousness is embodied or whether there is any possible disembodied consciousness. As it stands science simply has nothing to say about whether consciousness could survive the death of our bodies. To contend otherwise is rather like somebody operating a metal detector making proclamations regarding the existence or non-existence of plastic, wood and rubber.

As for a "God", clearly it depends on one's conception of God. However, the regularities ("physical laws") describing the Universe could not possibly explain the existence of the Universe. This is simply to misunderstand what science does. How so?

Think of a computer game. In order to play a 3D game proficiently, we need to know how the game environment changes when the character moves and behaves in particular ways. The character you control who presses buttons in the game environment will cause certain things to happen in that environment. Shooting at certain spots will cause other things, such as "killing" a bot. And so on and so forth.

One can become extremely proficient at a game. Yet, at the same time, one might know absolutely nothing about what makes the game possible to exist in the first place, and why the game environment changes in the characteristic way it does. In other words, one might know nothing about the computer software, CPU's, RAM, or anything else about the underlying machinery of the computer, even though one might be better at the game than anyone else.

I submit that our science, together with the technology it has spawned, is analogous to playing a computer game proficiently. I submit, that is, that science deals exclusively with the patterns discerned in reality and how the world changes with particular actions on our parts. Similar to the game, science tells us absolutely nothing about the underlying machinery of reality. Science tells us nothing about how or why the world exists at all and why it has the particular physical laws it does. That is what metaphysics deals with. In particular, science could not possibly shed any light on a suitably sophisticated God.

1 comment:

  1. Good points. It seems fairly obvious that the methods of science can only touch on a very small part of reality. That dawned on me when I was a grad student in molecular biology at Vanderbilt. Science relates to only a vanishingly small aspect of all that exists.


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