Friday, March 09, 2012

If you enjoyed reading this review you may find my two books pictured above interesting reading also. If so, click on appropriate book cover to the right on this page for more information. Thanks.

The Grand Design
By Stephen Hawking
and Leonard Mlodinow

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

Stephen has got himself in trouble once again. Mr. Hawking has decided to join in the ancient argument about the existence or necessity of the gods.

Stephen didn’t actually say that there was no God. He merely stated in the manner of Laplace, another infamous mathematician, that he also “had no need for such a hypothesis.”

Stephen is of the opinion that the Universe is the result of a “Big Bang” and that this Big Bang was able to create itself ... from nothing.

Although Christians and many other organized religions also believe that the Universe was created from nothing they disagree with Stephen in their definition of the “nothing” that is somehow responsible for the Universe.

Christians and their counterparts believe that the nothing behind the Universe is God – a supernatural being portrayed in the image and likeness of Man. This God is also nothing because he is yet to be defined credibly. In fact, all attempts at a definition have led to paradox or irrational contradiction. So God remains an unconfirmed suspicion that is only visible to the faithful.

Stephen’s “nothing” is explainable scientific phenomenon which satisfies all his equations without a fallback position of God a la Isaac Newton. The notion of God, in effect, posits the impossible as an explanation for the highly improbable.

Stephen does not add God to his equations because he sees no point in solving a mystery with an even greater mystery nor does he find it necessary to do so. If we suggest that God created the Universe then one must ask who or what created God, states Stephen, philosophically.

This has sent the religious community into spasms of stuttering, stammering and hallucination over fundamentals. Stephen is able to do this because of his reputation as “the most intelligent man alive.”

Whoa, that is scary!

What surprises me is that no one seems all that upset over the fact that Stephen has also denied the concept of free will. Stephen said, rather flatly, that he believed not in free will but in “scientific determinism.”

The denial of free will is equally important to the religious community of theologians because without it how can non-believers and other undesirables be sent off to hell. And furthermore, without the notion of free will how can God be relieved of personal responsibility and become the source of all that is good, free from any evil related to his creation of man.

Stephen tries to back off on his denial of free will by making a qualifying statement. Stephen suggests that because of an infinity of choices man is sorta possessive of a free will … kind of. But to show where this copout leads, we find Stephen later in the book claiming that if a robot could be designed with the ability to make an incalculable number of choices it too could be considered, by Stephens’s definition, to be possessive of free will … kinda sorta.

I should think that the religious apologists would be jumping all over that one also.

And now we come to the Grand Design. The Grand Design has been the goal of the scientific community since Einstein and Heisenberg and the problems created by discoveries in quantum theories.

Scientists have been searching for one theory or one equation that would unite all the four known forces in the universe: gravity, electromagnetism, strong nuclear forces and the weak nuclear forces. So far they haven’t been able to come up with one. But Stephen says he has it. He calls it M-theory.

M-theory is not “a” theory but a scientific series of overlapping theories (models) which take into consideration via a multitude of Richard Feynman “fudge factors” every possible theory conceivable.

To me M-theory is somewhat akin to stating, “I have the answer to existence and why we all exist.”

“And what is that answer?”

“The answer to existence and why we all exist is that there is no answer.”

M-theory is based on Stephen’s definition of reality. Stephen denies that there is such a thing as objective reality or absolute reality. Reality is in the eye of the beholder and if the beholder’s reality can be backed up by scientific experimentation to justify what he thinks he is seeing, one observer’s view of reality is as good as another’s.

We fall into the same trap with this definition of reality as we did with Stephen's definition of free will. Stephen even goes so far as to say that the Ptolemaic view of the solar system is as viable as the sun concentric view. The only difference being the ease of the equations or math involved.

As with his scientific determinism, I find his scientific reality also lacking.
Scientific reality is based on observation backed and substantiated by scientific experiment. Stephen gives an explanation of realism that is about the worst description that I have ever read. It is so bad that I question his motivations in this regard.

But moving right along, Stephen rejects any a priori knowledge or conclusions with regards to reality. To my understanding an object has a reality in and of itself independent of any observers or perception. In other words, if there were no one and nothing to observe any real thing in the universe that thing would remain what it really is. A tree would be a tree even if there was no one or nothing to observe it. The sun would still be the sun and the stars would still be whatever they are. Observers are not necessary to this understanding of reality.

But Stephen is a scientist and not a theorist or a philosopher [Stephen says that philosophy is dead] and he accepts only a reality spawned via observation and corroborating scientific experiment. Models concocted through a plethora of observers and compared and evaluated via scientific experiment and mathematical equations present the only reality possible. It doesn’t really matter if the concluded realities are true or false, since no picture of reality can be determined to be absolutely true. They only have to be computer, model soluble.

So once again Stephen comes to this strange conclusion that a fish in a fish bowl’s confirmed observations are as viable as a human’s scientifically confirmed observation of any particular object. This leaves us with no absolute reality and reduces reality to a matter of opinion … sorta.

From Stephen’s point of view, man’s view and understanding of the things around him become constrained and restricted to the laboratory and mathematical equations that can be diagrammed on his computer.

Stephen’s view of reality may be distorted in this way because of his physical condition. He sees a reality confined and restricted just as he is confined and restricted.

I see an objective absolute reality in a thing’s existence in and of itself with no perspective or point of view necessary. Of course, this absolute reality is indeterminable – but nevertheless it does exist. It is reality and we all know and understand it.

It is the goal of science to discover this absolute reality with its inadequate powers of observation and scientific experimentation.

The average of all the approximate realities of all the various scientific observers is an estimate of reality and not reality, per se.

Reality is not the sum total of all the various and inadequate points of view of the myriad of observers combined and mathematically formulated. It may be the best that man can do, scientifically, at present but these scientific estimations do not constitute a true reality – as of yet. I think the M-theory with all its machinations will come up short in the long run.

A tree is a tree, in and of itself, no matter how it may appear to you or anyone or anything else. A tree is not necessarily what any particular group of observers, no matter how large or scientifically inclined, estimate it to be.

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