Sunday, 21 July 2013

The God of the Gaps

Though I find "debunking" activities tedious, low-brow (especially Dawkins) and beneath the dignity of anyone serious, I'm surprised that I actually enjoy well-thought-out responses and apologias. I think I said on this blog that I thought David Berlinski trying to eviscerate Dawkins was just as mean spirited as the militancy of the God debunker (though there definitely are gems (as always) in the Berlinski attempt). I admire Berlinski though I was dismayed to see him associated with rightwing extremism in American (that Coulter woman) at least in part of writing The Devil's Delusion (which I still highly recommend).

I'm re-reading John C Lennox's God and Stephen Hawking: whose design is it anyway? (Lion Books, 2011). The ducks here are lined up a bit more coherently than Berlinski's uncharacteristic histrionics (relative to Lennox, of course). I always say that passion is best served deadpan, of which Berlinski is a clear master, but not all such servings are appropriate nor satisfying.

Lennox quotes Hawking that God was ever really just a "God of the gaps", but he (Lennox) starts by pointing out a contradiction in Hawking's premise that "philosophy is dead" among his other quasi-nihilistic statements. In my view, Hawking cannot recover from this hypocrisy as he clearly philosophizes (or, at the very least, apparently makes metaphysical statements to make his case) in the very next breath. Lennox rightly points out, too, that "philosophy is dead" is itself a philosophical statement.

I'm a fan of Lee Smolin's advocacy for the Standard Model and after reading his book, The Trouble with Physics, I've come to see people like Hawking who believe in string theory as speculative navel-gazers rather than serious scientists. Hawking conducted great works in relativistic physics but I think he should have taken cue from Newton:

I have not been able to discover the cause of those properties of gravity from phenomena, and I frame no hypotheses; for whatever is not deduced from the phenomena is to be called a hypothesis, and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, whether of occult qualities or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy. Letter to Robert Hooke (15 February 1676)

The dismissive attitude of string-theorists toward the Standard Model took a huge blow with the discovery of the Higgs boson and another one recently with another discovery of Bs Meson (read B subscript s). I tried googling this latest find but many links go to very dense and highly specialized papers, so here is a plain language account: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/07/19/bs-meson-subatomic-particle_n_3624858.html

At any rate, the string-theoretic arguments that Hawking forwards and Lennox so ably respond to seem more and more like so much smoke and mirrors the likes of the Sheldon Cooper character in the TV show, Big Bang Theory, would use to try and intimidate the less wary...kind of pathetic actually.

Newton set the standard for scientific discourse - in fact, anticipated many of the epiphenomenal arguments (need vs want; necessary vs sufficient; etc.) that remain unavoidable in the metaphysics of science.

Personally, I believe in the Judeo-Christian God but, since this belief is not even really necessary in navigating through Lennox's apologia, I would highly recommend God and Stephen Hawking if only to educate oneself that we should always demand more of those presenting themselves as the authority.

I know and appreciate that this may seem strange coming from a espoused Christian but I'm not a bible-thumper. I'm somewhat skeptical up to the major/minor Prophets but from then on I cannot deny the difference of the faith from every other belief system when the spiritual interpretation of Providence ties itself to human history. There is something there ineffable...

Jay

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