Stephen Hawking’s Grand Design for Us

Written by June 19, 2011 7:17 pm 31 comments

There has been a raging debate about how the universe began. This article is a summary of where Stephen Hawking’s quest for answering this fundamental question has culminated. His latest book (co-authored with Leonard Mlodinow) provides a fairly self-consistent picture of what is reality, why there is something rather than nothing, why are things the way they are, and a host of other fundamental issues.

scientist-stephen-hawking_1

Image credit: http://www.okeartist.com/532/stephen-hawking.html

Introduction

Stephen Hawking (SH) is one of the greatest scientists ever. He is a cosmologist, particularly well-known for his work on black holes. The book THE GRAND DESIGN, published last year by Hawking and Mlodinow (H&M), has a touch of finality, as if an unusually sharp scientific brain has finally succeeded in finding rational answers to the basic questions about ourselves and our universe. Here is a sampling of the answers this book provides.

What Is Reality?

There are several umbrella words like ‘consciousness’, ‘reality’, etc., which have never been defined rigorously and unambiguously. H&M argue that we can only have ‘model-dependent reality‘, and that any other notion of reality is meaningless.

Does an object exist when we are not viewing it? Suppose there are two opposite models or theories for answering this question (and indeed there are!). Which model of ‘reality’ is better? Naturally the one which is simpler and more successful in terms of its predicted consequences. If a model makes my head spin and entangles me in a web of crazy complications and contradictory conclusions, I would rather stay away from it. This is where materialism wins hands down. The materialistic model is that the object exists even when nobody is observing it. This model is far more successful in explaining ‘reality’ than the opposite model. And we can do no better than build models of whatever there is understand and explain.

In fact, we adopt this approach in science all the time. There is no point in going into the question of what is absolute and unique ‘reality’. There can only be a model-dependent reality. We can only build models and theories, and we accept those which are most successful in explaining what we humans observe collectively. I said ‘most successful’. Quantum mechanics is an example of what that means. In spite of being so crazily counter-intuitive, it is the most successful and the most repeatedly tested theory ever propounded. I challenge the creationists and their ilk to come with an alternative and more successful model of ‘reality’ than that provided by quantum mechanics. (I mention quantum mechanics here because the origin of the universe, like every other natural phenomenon, was/is governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. The origin of the universe was a quantum event.)

A model is a good model if: it is elegant; it contains few arbitrary or adjustable parameters; it agrees with and explains all the existing observations; and it makes detailed and falsifiable predictions.

Feynman’s Sum-Over-Histories Model Of Quantum Reality

One of the main ingredients of Hawking’s theory of our universe is Richard Feynman’s sum-over-histories version of quantum mechanics.

richard_feynman_01

Image credit: http://www.phschool.com/science/science_news/articles/images/dr_feynman_01.jpg

To get a feel for this, let us hark back to the famous double-slit experiment performed by Davisson and Germer in 1927. They shot a beam of electrons through two parallel slits, and recorded the positions of the electrons on a flat screen on the other side.

500px-two-slit_experiment_electronssvg

Image credit: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/File:Two-Slit_Experiment_Electrons.svg#file

What they found was that the electrons behaved, not as particles, but as waves, forming a diffraction pattern like the one we would expect from a beam of light. This established the wave-particle duality of elementary particles.

Richard Feynman was intrigued by the further variations carried out on this experiment. Suppose you close one slit and carry out the experiment. You record a pattern reminiscent of the single-slit experiment carried out earlier by Young for a beam of light. There is a diffraction pattern comprising of a central maximum and a number of secondary maxima. Now you close this slit and open the other one, and repeat the experiment. You again get a similar diffraction pattern, a little displaced from the first one. But if you superimpose these two patterns, what you get is not the same as when the two slits are open at the same time. Even if you reduce the intensity of the electron beam so much that the electrons come one at a time, you still get the same result. This is intriguing. How does a single electron ‘know’ which slit is open, or whether one or two slits are open?

During the 1940s Feynman formulated a new version of quantum mechanics, in which when an elementary particle goes from point A to point B, it has available to it all possible trajectories, and not just the shortest-path trajectory. So the electron in the above experiment actually samples all paths (simultaneously), including the one in which it finds that one of the slits is closed. This approach was in line with the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, according to which an electron can be anywhere in the universe, and not on any particular trajectory. Of course, there is a stronger probability that it would be in the vicinity of the slits in the above experiment, but the probability cloud characterising its position extends over all space. There is one probability distribution at one instant of time, and a slightly different one at the next instant, and so on. Therefore all possible histories or trajectories are equally real, each with its own probability value. Moreover, since the probability cloud extends over all space, all the alternative histories get enacted simultaneously.

Feynman developed the necessary mathematics, including his famous ‘path integrals‘, for summing over all possible trajectories, or all alternative histories (each with an amplitude term and a phase term), for calculating the net effect. As can be seen from the corresponding ‘Argand diagrams’, trajectories which deviate too much from the straight trajectory contribute less to the overall sum (or integral), but they do contribute. Feynman’s formulation is able to reproduce all the laws of quantum physics.

It may appear as if nothing much has been gained, because we can obtain the same results by treating the electrons as waves and carrying out a Huygens construction as we do for explaining an optical diffraction pattern (or solve the Schrodinger equation). But there was a conceptual breakthrough here, because we must carry out this sum over alternative histories for any quantum system, even for the evolving universe. This is what SH’s model of the universe does.

In Newtonian theory, the past is visualized as a definite series of events. Not so in quantum theory. No matter how thoroughly we observe the present, the unobserved past, as also the future, is indeterminate, and exists only as a ‘spectrum of possibilities’. This means that the universe does not have a single past or history.

The Standard Model Of Particle Physics

There are four known forces or interactions of Nature: (i) the electromagnetic interaction; (ii) the gravitational interaction; (iii) the weak nuclear interaction; and (iv) the strong nuclear interaction. Formulating a quantum-mechanical version of these has been a highly nontrivial task.

The first one to be quantized was the electromagnetic interaction, and for this we are once again indebted to the genius of Feynman. The resulting field of research is called quantum electrodynamics (QED).

In physics there are particles and there are fields. Two particles interact because each creates a field around itself, which is felt by the other particle. In the quantum version of the fundamental interactions, even the fields are quantized and associated with corresponding elementary particles. The photon is an example of the quantization of the electromagnetic field. Two charged particles, say electrons, interact by the exchange of photons. One particle emits a photon which is absorbed by the other particle, resulting in an interaction between them.

In quantum field theory, the matter particles are called fermions, and the field quanta are called bosons. The electron is a fermion, and the photon is a boson.

There is not just one way in which a photon may be emitted by one electron and absorbed by another. All possible modes or histories of emission and absorption must be considered and summed up vectorially. When this was done by Feynman, the problem of ‘infinities‘ was encountered. There are infinitely many histories to sum, so the QED theory ended up calculating an infinite mass and an infinite charge for the electron, which was an absurdity.

The pioneering genius Feynman not only established QED, he also introduced the vitally important and much-used ‘Feynman diagrams‘ (see the wiggly and straight lines alongside his picture above), and the ‘renormalization‘ procedures to get over the problem of infinities.

The renormalization involved subtracting infinite but negative terms from the sum over histories such that what were left were finite numbers. This was not a very elegant theory because it predicted just about any value for the electron charge and mass. But the saving grace was that if you inserted the experimentally known values for the charge and the mass (as adjustable parameters) into the theory, then all further predictions of the theory were borne out by experiment to a very high degree of precision.

Encouraged by the success of QED, physicists attempted to formulae quantum field theories for the other three fundamental interactions. Alongside, work was also going on for ‘unifying’ all the interactions into a single interaction. It had been realized that as we go up the energy scale, the interactions would merge one by one, so that at high-enough energies only one interaction would prevail. The highest-energy scenario, of course, was what transpired at and soon after the moment of the Big Bang, when there must have been only one fundamental interaction in operation. As the cosmos expanded and cooled, ‘symmetry breaking’ transitions occurred, resulting in the emergence of the four interactions we know at present.

That unification is the correct approach became clear when attempts were made to formulate a quantum field theory of the weak nuclear force. It was found that the nuisance of infinities cannot be gotten over by a renormalization procedure, except when the electromagnetic interaction and the weak nuclear interaction are treated as one single interaction, since called the electroweak interaction. Glashow, Salam and Weinberg were awarded the Nobel Prize for this work in 1973.

Renormalization of the quantum field theory for the strong nuclear force can be carried out on its own, and the theory is known as quantum chromodynamics (QCD). According to this theory, protons, neutrons and some other fundamental particles are composed of still more fundamental particles called quarks. Murray Gell-Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on quarks. Three quarks, one of each of the three ‘colours’ assigned to them, form baryons, of which protons and neutrons are examples. Practically all the normal matter mass in our universe comes from these baryons.

Various attempts have been made for uniting the electroweak interaction with the strong nuclear interaction. These ‘grand unification theories’ (GUTs) have not been particularly successful.

So an interim status report is that there is the so-called standard model, in which there is the unified electroweak interaction, a separate strong nuclear interaction, and the (most problematic) separate gravitational interaction. Most problematic because there is still no quantum version of the gravitational interaction, or a theory of quantum gravity.

M-Theory

There are grounds for cautious optimism that we may now be near the end of the search for the ultimate laws of nature.‘ (SH)

The uncertainty principle is one reason why it is so hard to formulate a quantum theory of gravity (Einstein’s general theory of relativity is a wholly classical theory). The uncertainty principle applies to pairs of ‘conjugate parameters’. For example, the position of a particle along the x-axis and its momentum component along the same direction are one such pair of conjugate parameters. Energy and time are another example. A third such pair is the value of a field and its rate of change. The more accurately one is determined, the more uncertain the value of the other is. This means that there is no such thing as empty space. An empty space would mean that both the value of a field and its rate of change are exactly zero; this is not allowed by the uncertainty principle.

Thus when we speak of vacuum in quantum physics, we really mean a space which has a certain minimum-energy state. This state is subject to ‘quantum fluctuations’, which means that pairs of (virtual) particles can make momentary appearances (within the limits prescribed by the uncertainty principle), and then disappear by merging into each other. There are infinitely many such virtual pairs possible, each having energy. But if the vacuum state has infinite energy, it would curve the universe to an infinitely small size, according to the general theory of relativity. This is not what actually happens, so we are plagued by another infinity problem.

This time the problem is much more vicious than what has been described above because, unlike say the QED theory in which we could use the mass and the charge of the electron as adjustable parameters, there are not enough renormalizable parameters available in the general theory of relativity. This means that perhaps the only way out is that all the infinities should somehow cancel, without our having to resort to renormalization.

In 1976 the idea of supersymmetry was put forward in this context. According to it, force particles (bosons) and matter particles (fermions) are symmetry-related, or rather supersymmetry-related. They are two facets of the same thing. This means that for every matter particle (e.g. a quark) there must be a ‘super’ force particle, and for every force particle (e.g. a photon) there must be a ‘super’ matter particle.

This scenario has the potential to solve the infinities problem. It turns out that the infinities from matter-related virtual particles are all negative, while they are positive for force-related virtual particles, so they can cancel each other out. The necessary calculations are very difficult to carry out, but many believe that the notion of supergravity which emerges when we invoke supersymmetry has the potential to unify gravity with the other three interactions.

The idea of supersymmetry had actually originated earlier when ‘string theory‘ was being formulated. In string theory the elementary particles are envisaged, not as points, but rather as patterns of vibration that have length but no width or height (‘strings’). There are several string theories, and they are consistent only if spacetime has 10 dimensions, rather than 4. We see only four because the other six are curved up (or curled up) into a space of very small size. An analogy will help understand this. Consider a straw you use for drinking lemonade. Its surface is 2-dimensional: We need two numbers or coordinates for specifying the location of any point on it. But if the straw is extremely thin (say a million-million-million-million-millionth of an inch), it is practically 1-dimensional; the other dimension has just curled up into near-nothingness in terms of visibility. The extra dimensions in string theory are said to have curled up into ‘internal space‘.

An awkward problem faced in early days was that there appeared to be at least five different string theories, and millions of ways in which the extra dimensions could be curled up. Then, in the early 1990s, ‘dualities‘ were discovered: It was realized that the different string theories, as also the myriad ways of curling up the extra dimensions, are simply different ways of describing the same phenomena in four dimensions. It was also found that supergravity is also related to the other theories in this manner.

Many experts are now convinced that the five string theories, as also supergravity, are merely different approximations to a more fundamental theory (called the ‘M-theory’), each valid in different situations.

M-theory involves 11 dimensions instead of 10. It is this extra dimension which unifies the five string theories. Moreover, M-theory allows for not just 1-dimensional strings, but also point particles, 2-dimensional membranes, etc., all the way up to 9-dimensional entities (p-branes, with p running from 0 to 9). M-theory is the unique supersymmetric theory in 11 dimensions.

calabi-yau-alternate

Image credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/55/Calabi-Yau-alternate.png

A crucial feature of M-theory is that its mathematics restricts the ways in which the dimensions of the internal space can be curled. Thus the theory comes up with unique (rather than arbitrary) values for the fundamental constants and the ‘apparent’ laws of physics corresponding to any particular mode of curling (see below).

How Did Our Universe Arise?

My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.‘ (SH)

The laws of M-theory allow for different universes, each with its own set of apparent laws, depending upon how the internal spaces are curled up. We say ‘apparent laws’, because the more fundamental laws are those of the M-theory. There are ~10^500 different modes of curling up, meaning that that many different universes are possible. Only one of them is the universe we inhabit.

But how did our universe arise anyway, along with others? Our universe is known to be expanding. This means that if we extrapolate backwards in time, there must have been a moment when our universe was extremely small, almost a point. It has been estimated that that happened ~13.7 billion years ago. There was a Big Bang, and our universe has been expanding ever since then.

The Big Bang point is taken as the zero of spacetime. It is a ‘singularity’ because certain quantities become infinite in Einstein’s equations of general relativity. Therefore Einstein’s theory is applicable only a little after the Big Bang, and not at the singularity.

Evidence in support of the Big Bang model comes from many sources. One is the observation of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR). The observed distribution of this radiation is quite uniform, but not very uniform. In fact, the minute structure it has is responsible for the evolution of galaxies etc.

How could our universe get created spontaneously out of nothing? Is there a violation of the principle of conservation of energy? No. We can explain the emergence of positive energy (radiation or/and matter) out of nothing if there is a simultaneous emergence of a balancing amount of negative energy. This negative energy arose because the Big Bang was accompanied by the emergence of the gravitational interaction, which is an attractive interaction. Any attractive interaction engenders a negative contribution to the total energy because it takes positive energy to break free from the binding force of the attractive interaction. By contrast, a repulsive interaction (like the one between two positive charges or two negative charges) makes a positive contribution to the overall energy.

There is no reason why only one universe, namely ours, should emerge out of nothing. The M-theory tells us that a very large number of universes can emerge, and go there separate ways.

Cosmological observations make it necessary for us to postulate a brief period of very rapid ‘inflation‘ soon after time-zero, much more rapid than even the speed of light (this is possible because the expansion of space itself can be faster than the speed of light). It is this inflation which explains the ‘bang’ in the Big Bang.

But there is a problem. For explaining inflation and its aftermath, some very special conditions must exist at time-zero. The model proposed in H&M for the creation of the universe is such that this problem gets eliminated.

Time-zero was the moment when spacetime came into existence. We know from Einstein’s general theory of relativity that the gravitational interaction can be viewed as a warping of spacetime, so when gravitation came into existence, so did spacetime. And one reason the time dimension gets mixed with the space dimensions is that matter and energy warp time. This mixing is a key element for understanding the beginning of time.

Some earlier research work of SH had established that when we add the effects of quantum theory to the general theory of relativity, in extreme cases warpage can occur to such an extent that time behaves like another dimension of space. Thus in the early universe, when it was small enough to be governed by both general relativity and quantum mechanics, there were effectively four dimensions of space and none for time. Time as we know it did not exist when we extrapolate backwards in time towards the very early universe. So how did time begin? I quote from H&M:

‘Suppose the beginning of the universe was like the South Pole of the Earth, with degrees of latitude playing the role of time. As one moves north, the circles of constant latitude, representing the size of the universe, would expand. The universe would start at a point at the South Pole, but the South Pole is much like any other point. To ask what happened before the beginning of the universe would become a meaningless question, because there is nothing south of the South Pole. In this picture spacetime has no boundary – the same laws of nature hold at the South Pole as in other places. In an analogous manner, when one combines the general theory of relativity with quantum theory, the question of what happened before the beginning of the universe is rendered meaningless.’

The term ‘no-boundary condition‘ is used for the idea that the histories of the universe are closed surfaces without a boundary (in an appropriate hyperspace).

Since the origin of the universe was a quantum event, Feynman’s sum-over-histories formulation for going from spacetime point A to spacetime point B occupies centre stage. But we have knowledge only about the present state of the universe (point B), and we know nothing about the initial state A. Therefore we can only adopt a ‘top down‘ approach to cosmology, wherein every alternative history of the universe exists simultaneously, and the histories relevant to us are only those which satisfy the no-boundary condition and which, when summed up courtesy Feynman’s path integrals, give us our present universe (point B).

The picture that emerges is that the universe, or rather a whole lot of them, appeared spontaneously (and the M-theory allows for ~10^500 of them). Most of these multiple universes were not relevant to us because their apparent laws were not conducive to our emergence and survival.

blustar

Image credit: http://discovermagazine.com/2008/dec/10-sciences-alternative-to-an-intelligent-creator

What enters the sum over histories relevant to us in not just one universe. Although one particular universe with a completely uniform and regular history does have the highest relative probability amplitude and therefore contributes the maximum to the Feynman sum, several others also, which have slightly irregular or deviant histories but still significant probability amplitudes, also contribute to the sum over histories. This should account for the slight nonuniformities during the inflation era, as evidenced by the CMBR plot. These irregularities were important for the emergence of galaxies. ‘We are the product of quantum fluctuations in the very early universe.’

Is this theory testable? Yes. The no-boundary condition implies that the probability amplitude is the highest for histories in which the universe starts out completely smooth. And it is somewhat smaller for universes which are slightly irregular by comparison. Starting from the M-theory one can work out the details of how the CMBR pattern should look, and then compare with detailed and accurate experimental observations.

The M-theory offers ~10^500 possibilities of start-up universes. We have to single out those which correspond to the curling up of exactly those dimensions which we find to be the case for the universe we inhabit. The narrowed-down choice should also predict conditions which make it possible for inflation to start and proceed exactly the way it actually did for our universe. Of course, we select those histories which reproduce the observed mass and charge of the electron, and other such observed fundamental parameters.

The Weak And The Strong Anthropic Principle

We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.’ (SH)

The weak version of the anthropic principle says that our very existence selects rules determining from where and at what time in the cosmic chains of events it is possible for us to observe the universe. In other words, we can draw conclusions about the apparent laws of physics based on the fact that we exist. H&M suggest that it should really be called a ‘selection principle‘ because it is about how our own knowledge of our existence imposes rules that select, from among all possible environments, only those environments that have characteristics that allow life.

Scientists had no trouble accepting the weak version. After all, the terrestrial and other environmental conditions have to be consistent with our existence; otherwise we shall not be here. And the term ‘environmental conditions’ can include even parameters like the present age of our universe. We could not possibly exist at a time when the universe was too young and therefore too hot. Similarly, we shall not be there when the universe becomes too cold in the distant future.

But there was a ‘strong’ version of the anthropic principle which was frowned upon by scientists. It said that even the numerical values of the fundamental constants, as also the laws of Nature, were fined-tuned to be such that human existence became possible. This is as if human beings and other form of life on Earth are so important that some designer designed the laws of physics and the fundamental constants to be such that our life became possible. This is clearly nonsense.

A fallout of Hawking’s model for our universe is that even the strong anthropic principle acquires validity, provided it is stated properly and in the context provided clearly and scientifically by SHs worldview. The new statement of the strong version can go something like this: Out of the various possible universes, our universe just happens to have the fundamental constants and physical laws it has; other universes (which we cannot observe) have different laws of physics and different values for the fundamental constants. Our existence in our universe has been possible because it is compatible with our apparent laws of physics and our set of fundamental constants; other universes may or may not be conducive to life of any kind. Thus the term ‘environment’ now includes not only our specific solar system etc., but also the apparent laws of physics of our universe.

There is a bunch of people who have been misinterpreting the anthropic principle to suit there irrational worldview. They argue how improbable it is for such a large number of parameters to get fine-tuned by themselves, and that therefore there must be a Creator who did all this. This argument about the extremely-low-probability business reminds me of how Richard Feynman used to handle it. I quote Bill Bryson (2003):

“The physicist Richard Feynman used to make a joke about a posteriori conclusions – reasoning from known facts back to possible causes. ‘You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight,’ he would say. ‘I saw a car with the licence plate ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of licence plates in the state, what was the chance that I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing!’ His point, of course, is that it is easy to make any banal situation seem extraordinary if you treat it as fateful.”

The important thing is to make a distinction between something being possible or impossible. If it is possible, then no matter how improbable it is, Feynman’s licence-plate example can be quoted to make a point, say, about the validity of the anthropic principle. In any case, H&M have taken care of even the low-probability argument by talking in terms of apparent laws relevant to our universe.

Poor Deepak Chopra

I conclude this article on a lighter note. The mystic Deepak Chopra has been brandishing his own queer interpretation of quantum theory, sprinkled with quotations from the work of SH and perhaps some other scientists as well. I wonder how many PowerPoint slides on his laptop he has had to delete, and how many alterations he has had to make to his website, after reading this passage from H&M:

‘According to M-theory, ours is not the only universe. Instead, M-theory predicts that 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 law. They are a prediction of science. Each universe has many possible histories and many possible states at later times, that is, at times like the present, long after their creation. Most of these states will be quite unlike the universe we observe and quite unsuitable for the existence of any form of life. Only a very few allow creatures like us to exist. 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.’

Stephen Hawking’s worldview is at once grand and rational. His assertion that model-dependent reality is the only kind there is makes tremendous sense. One can take pride in the fact that the human mind, guided by the scientific method, can come up with such brilliant model-building and reasoning and give credible answers to the most fundamental questions ever.

I do hope the M-theory gets further validated.

Dr. Vinod Kumar Wadhawan is a Raja Ramanna Fellow at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai and an Associate Editor of the journal PHASE TRANSITIONS
All parts of Dr. Wadhawan’s series on Complexity Explained can be found here.
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- who has written 36 posts on Nirmukta.

Dr. Vinod Wadhawan is a scientist, rationalist, author, and blogger. He has written books on ferroic materials, smart structures, complexity science, and symmetry. More information about him is available at his website. Since October 2011 he has been writing at The Vinod Wadhawan Blog, which celebrates the spirit of science and the scientific method.

31 Comments

  • It is coincidence that I just finished reading grand design today.
    You have summarized it very well. It busted many misunderstanding about scientific approach.

    • Vinod Wadhawan

      Thanks. If SH’s no-boundary condition is valid, it is meaningless to talk about time before the Big Bang. This runs counter to the cyclic-births model put forward recently by Roger Penrose, who is the current darling of the creationists!

      • It looks like science too is beginning to drape itself in the attire of religion and its own sets of superstition, beliefs and myths, though cloaked under veil mathematics and physics. Parallel Universes? What evidence do we have? The pure BS does not stop here, it goes on and on with String theory, M-theory (multi-dimensional universe). No testable, falsifiable hypothesis almost nothing. Add to this, dark matter and dark energy, which still remains elusive. As per the priests of Big Bang (BB)or Lambda CDM theory our Universe is filled 73% with dark matter, 23% dark matter and 4% visible matter, yet there is no trace of dark matter to be found heck they proponents do not even know what dark matter is composed off. All these epicycles are devised to support the fragile theory of LambdaCDM, which has failed critical observations time and again, yet it is propagated by the scientific establishment as the only viable theory and the media propagates it as the final theory. It exists only in the minds of the scientists whose bread and butter depends upon it.

        Heck, we could not detect cause for the orbital discrepancies in the orbit of Neptune, till Voyager 2 got there and we found out that mass of Neptune was wrongly calculated by earth based observations. When the figures provided by Voyager 2 were used, the orbital discrepancies disappeared. In cosmic terms, Neptune is not even next door neighbor or even next room person. The planet is in the same room! Yet, we have these physicists talking about imaginary things like Black holes, white holes (perfectly fine mathematical models) yet, no solid evidence. How can you hypothesize about something that is hundred of thousands light years away? Even more think that Universe even had a beginning through a “Big Bang”, a derogatory term coined by Sir Fred Hoyle during a radio talk show. The only solid evidence LAMBDA CDM proponents can come up with is the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, which they say is a relic radiation of the original Big Bang event. Well, there are other probable theories for the origins of CMBR that demand serious study.

        While I commend Nirmukta contributors for carrying on relentless and ruthless fight against religious superstition, irrationality and fallacy of religious, it is more disheartening to see that they are also followers of the faith (of some sort) only in the extreme opposite.

        • Satish Chandra

          Now I don’t know much about physics to address what you’ve said, but I know enough about the philosophy of science to know that even if what you said is correct, it doesn’t matter at all to what you have concluded. Because science is a process and nothing in what you said addresses the process beyond what is already known about it.

          Religious apologists typically set up a strawman science where everything is known with perfect certainty (because religion teaches them to crave for certainty), that there is absolutely no scope for a probabilistic understanding of the world, and then find something that science can’t fully explain, and vigorously slash at the strawman with straws of false equivalences with religion flying all around, while at the same time giving away gratuitous lamentations.

          • Satish,

            I am not addressing scientific process, I am merely commenting on how people just throw up vague and esoteric ideas like dark energy, inflation, dark matter, parallel universes like as if these have been established as facts beyond reasonable doubt. The scientific process allows for a theory, before it is accepted to be testable and falsifiable and that it should be able to predict the outcome with all the variables in place. Yet, we have whole academia and the media propagating these ideas amongst the general masses and doing a great disservice. That was my point.

          • Satish Chandra

            My point is that your conclusion “it is more disheartening to see that they are also followers of the faith (of some sort) only in the extreme opposite.” is a non-sequitur.

        • Vinod Wadhawan

          1. As stated in my article, for human beings there is no reality other than model-dependent reality. Thus, ‘reality’ keeps changing as we build better and better scientific models. It is a continuous, never-ending, process. Where is the question of ‘faith’ in this?

          2. The model of reality that I have described is probably the best we have at present. If you know about a better model, please share the information with the scientific world.

          3. It is immaterial whether or not the present cosmological model is good enough or not. It is the best we have at present.

          4. While my level of presentation is too elementary from the vantage point of experts, it is still too technical for the lay person. I am currently explaining all this in an even more accessible language in a weekly column at my blog:
          http://vinodwadhawan.blogspot.in/search/label/Understanding%20Natural%20Phenomena

  • WLC has criticed Hawkings “grand” controversial claims here:
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8401

    and here:
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8415

    And when you talk about fundamental forces have you addressed where the energy, to emit a photon or form a field, that can repulse another comes from ? Isn’t it odd that the supposed irreducible particle which can’t move itself can move other than itself ?

    As for anthropic principle, the multiverse cop out was criticed based on the false shifting of the probability from the elements within the universe to probability between universes. Anthropic principle argument is not refering to the improbability of “existance of a universe with fine-tuned values” but instead the improbability of “existance of fine-tuned values within a universe”.

    For example if i was to be surprised about a single women who gave birth to 20 children all with the female sex. Your trying to correct my surprise by postulating that i should imagine infinite women who gave 20 children and hence shouldnt be surprised that one of them had 20 female only children.

    • Ahmed,

      The sinking boat of tenacious superstition and irrationality will clutch at any straws to revive and sustain its monumental folly of belief in a Creator and other such supernatural fantasies.

      One of them is turning the supposed flaws of rival theories by twisting and distorting then to support their pet foolish notions of supernaturalism.

      That is what the article links of ‘unreasonable faith’ are trying to do.

      Hawking’s proposition may have its flaws, but that does not validate the nonsense of creationists

      BTW who is this single woman with 20 female children that I missed on the CNBC and FOX channels?!!

      • Vinod Wadhawan

        Hawking & Mlodinow’s book discusses some of the most advanced and difficult concepts in science. It is not easy for a lay person to understand what is being said. But somebody who understands what the scientific method is all about will at least have the decency to show respect for the eminence of Hawking as a scientist. His model of the universe, like any other model in science, is best debated by scientists who are knowledgeable enough to do so. If somebody uses a phrase like ‘multiverse cop out’ while talking about Hawking, scientists have a way of dealing with this. In fact they are rather good at it. They just ignore it. And at least among scientists, nothing hurts more than nobody taking notice of somebody’s views and work.

    • First off, it is not necessary to imagine an infinite number of women for this thought experiment. Assuming equal probability for male and female birth, we can calculate the probability of 20 consecutive female births as 1/1048576. Now 1048576 is large but finite number. Why, in Indian terms, this is under ‘ten and a half lakhs’! To indulge in this messily suggested thought experiment a little longer, if we found a crore women volunteers to undergo 20 childbirths each (remember we are in the realm of imagination)then it wouldn’t be all that surprising if there was a woman who delivered 20 girls. With a large enough number of samples, it becomes almost inevitable that there will be such a case.

      The argument of the “improbability of life” (the second-most overused phrase by ID-enthusiasts following “irreducible complexity”) is addressed by Prof. Dawkins here:

      “Usually, in everyday life, massive improbability is a good reason for thinking that something won’t happen. The point about intercontinental rafting of monkeys, or rodents or anything else, is that it only had to happen once, and the time available for it to happen, in order to have momentous consequences, is way outside what we can grasp intuitively. The odds against a floating mangrove bearing a pregnant female monkey and reaching a landfall in any one year may be ten thousand to one against. That sounds tantamount to impossible by the lights of human experience. But given 10 million years it becomes almost inevitable. ”

      • Your committing the same error of shifting the issue. Instead of addressing the probability of 20 girl only children, your adddressing the probability of a women over the imaginery 20 crore women. Also note, your assumption that all 20 crore women gave 20 births is similar to the grand assumption that all the imaginery multiverses have the same property or laws like our universe (within which the fine tuned constants play role). Theres also a gamblers fallacy being committed when implying that repeating a process would reduce the probability.

        As for probability of first life, than its not just an issue that can be side tracked by the usual deep time cop out,

        - Probability is a factor used by philosophers in favouring a theory.

        - Its anti-intuitive that given billion of years a encyclopedia can be formed.

        - Its not enough that the arrangement be made, but instead there has to be mechanism that preserves and carries the arrangement. Otherwise the arrival of probability vanishes the next moment.

        - The irreducible complexity, because of the inter-depedence between DNA, RNA, protein and so on of the cell, puts random naturalistic emergence as a joke. After all, darwanian process lies upon the smokescreen assumption of the existance of a replicating, adapted, survivable, genetic organism (which is the biological “cube”, as in the Transformers movie, that powers evolutionery process ).

        • Satish Chandra

          You would be well advised to read all of this site instead of rehashing same old creationist nonsense. If that still doesn’t convince you, there really is no point in you commenting here. You have made up your mind and no amount of evidence will convince you.

          • Counter-intuitiveness does not constitute grounds for hypothesis rejection.

            Those who deride probability as a little more than a sophist’s prop ‘used by philosophers favouring a theory’ would have to contend with the fact that there is no experiment so far that invalidates the predictions of Quantum Mechanics.

            The ‘deep time copout’ would have been a cop-out but for the many molecular clocks that bear it out.

            The ‘God-did-it’ copout is one that is adopted compulsively by those who is enjoined by affiliations and indoctrination to refuse to watch videos like this one and its followup.

            Quoting from the last video: “To dismiss Science for being unable to place perfect knowledge or impossible evidence in your lap is not a legitimate position, especially when you give no evidence of trying to gain a basic understanding of what we do know through Science.”

    • There is more than one question here (though they are all conveniently conflated in litanies of apologetics of the WLC kind).

      Do we live in a multiverse? Does the existence of the multiverse increase the odds of life? Is the universe as is currently understood ‘fine-tuned’ in some way? Is fine-tuning of some kind a pre-requisite for the origin of life?

      The physicists are not making an absolutist claim that “We live in a multiverse” but (in keeping with their discipline’s confinement to “Model-dependent Reality”) only saying that “The most state-of-the-art theoretical models predict more Universes than a single one.” The physicists are simply describing an additional property of their model which, besides being satisfied by the ‘parameter-settings’ of the known Universe, also can be satisfied by indefinitely more parameter-settings. All that they are doing is describing the ‘underconstrained’ nature of their model, and it is only obsessive biocentrists who read into this admission some conspiracy to artificially inflate the odds for the existence of life or the presence of a fine-tuned universe.

      Why, in this comment, do I address the fine-tuning claims and the refrain of the ‘improbability of life’ together? Though the question of the improbability of life can be addressed at different levels even before delving into the depths of Theoretical Physics (like the argument mentioned in the previous comment, suggesting that the vastness of Geological Time allows for the stupendously many trials necessary for the emergence of life amid seeming insuperable odds), it is this question that compels the biocentrists to espouse fine-tuning in the first place. “To account for the improbable existence of life” is their implicit answer to the begged question, “Fine-tuning means a fine-tuning for what?” Since it is they who have hurled the ball in the physicist’s court (when an appreciation of geological time would have sufficed, which maybe too much to ask for since so many ID-proponents are insufficiently critical even of Young Earth creationists), let us allow a trained physicist Victor Stenger to respond..

      In particular Prof. Stenger debunks the myth of fine-tuning by explaining how the stars that are the source of the stuff of life could have operated over a wide range of values of certain physical constants (and not just some ‘God-given sweet-spot’) and also explains that the myth of fine-tuning is based on the unsupported assumption that carbon-based life is the form of life-like complexity possible.

      • Vinod Wadhawan

        An important feature of Hawking & Mlodinow’s book is that it attempts to tie up the loose ends to come up with a fairly complete and testable model of our universe. This makes me look forward to how their model will fare in the days to come. How exciting! I give here my interpretation of what has been suggested in the model:

        We have the example of the QED. What was done there was that the adjustable parameters in the theory were fixed by appeal to experiment. Our knowledge about the charge and the mass of the electron etc. was plugged into the theory. Once this was done, the theory made remarkably accurate predictions about some other natural phenomena. This is what one expects from a self-consistent theory. Likewise, we already have knowledge from experiment about a huge number of parameters regarding the veritable ‘zoo’ of elementary particles, as also many other fundamental constants. Putting this information into the M-theory should limit greatly the ‘choice’ from which to select the universe we live in. The very prospect should gladden the hearts of people who love and respect science and the scientific method.

      • Vinod Wadhawan

        Stenger’s article, referred to by Arvind Iyer, makes excellent reading. I think the following passage from it should be widely disseminated:

        ‘Although not required to negate the fine-tuning argument, which falls of its own weight, other universes besides our own are not ruled out by fundamental physics and cosmology. The theory of a multiverse composed of many universes with different laws and physical properties is actually more parsimonious, more consistent with Occam’s razor, than a single universe. Specifically, we would need to hypothesize a new principle to rule out all but a single universe. If, indeed, multiple universes exist, then we are simply in that particular universe of all the logically consistent possibilities that had the properties needed to produce us.

        ‘The fine-tuning argument and other recent intelligent design arguments are modern versions of God-of-the-gaps reasoning, where a God is deemed necessary whenever science has not fully explained some phenomenon. When humans lived in caves they imagined spirits behind earthquakes, storms, and illness. Today we have scientific explanations for those events and much more. So those who desire explicit signs of God in science now look deeper, to highly sophisticated puzzles like the cosmological constant problem. But, once again, science continues to progress, and we now have a plausible explanation that does not require fine-tuning. Similarly, science may someday have a theory from which the values of existing physical constants can be derived or at otherwise explained. The fine-tuning argument would tell us that the Sun radiates light so that we can see where we are going. In fact, the human eye evolved to be sensitive to light from the Sun. The universe is not fine-tuned for humanity. Humanity is fine-tuned to the universe.’

  • Udaybhanu Chitrakar

    Philosophy is dead. Is Logic dead also?

    “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”
    - Stephen Hawking in “The Grand Design”
    “As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. 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 touch paper and set the universe going.”
    – Stephen Hawking, Ibid

    Here three questions can be asked:
    1) Which one came first, universe, or laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    2) If the universe came first, then how was there spontaneous creation without the laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    3) If the laws of gravity and quantum theory came first, then Hawking has merely substituted God with quantum theory and laws of gravity. These two together can be called Hawking’s “Unconscious God”. Therefore we can legitimately ask the question: Who, or what, created Hawking’s unconscious God?
    Not only this, but there are other problems also. If the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes spontaneously appearing from nothing, then initially there was nothing. Then wherefrom appear those laws of gravity and quantum theory to allow universes appearing spontaneously from nothing? In which container were those two laws of nature?
    Now regarding the M-theory: I have already written something on multiverse theory (not yet published anywhere). There I have come to the conclusion that if there are an infinite number of universes, then only within that infinite number of universes there will certainly be at least one universe in which life will emerge. If the number of universes is only 10 to the power 500, then it is very much unlikely that any one of them will support life, because no universe will know which set of values the other universes have already taken, and if everything is left on chance, then there is every probability that all the universes will take only those set of values that will not support life. There will be no mechanism that will prevent any universe from taking the same set of values that have already been taken by other universes. There will be no mechanism that will take an overview of all the universes already generated, and seeing that in none of them life has actually emerged will move the things in such a way that at least one universe going to be generated afterwards will definitely get the value of the parameters just right for the emergence of life. Only in case of an infinite number of universes this problem will not be there. This is because if we subtract 10 to the power 500 from infinity, then also we will get infinity. If we subtract infinity from infinity, still then we will be left with infinity. So we are always left with an infinite number of universes out of which in at least one universe life will definitely emerge. Therefore if M-theory shows that it can possibly have 10 to the power 500 number of solutions, and that thus there might be 10 to the power 500 number of universes in each of which physical laws would be different, then it is really a poor theory, because it cannot give us any assurance that life will certainly emerge in at least one universe. So instead of M-theory we need another theory that will actually have an infinite number of solutions.
    Now the next question to be pondered is this: How did the scientists come to know that an entire universe could come out of nothing? Or, how did they come to know that anything at all could come out of nothing? Were they present at that moment when the universe was being born? As that was not the case at all, therefore they did not get that idea being present at the creation event. Rather they got this idea being present here on this very earth. They have created a vacuum artificially, and then they have observed that virtual particles (electron-positron pairs) are still appearing spontaneously out of that vacuum and then disappearing again. From that observation they have first speculated, and then ultimately theorized, that an entire universe could also come out of nothing. But here their entire logic is flawed. These scientists are all born and brought up within the Christian tradition. Maybe they have downright rejected the Christian world-view, but they cannot say that they are all ignorant of that world-view. According to that world-view God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. So as per Christian belief-system, and not only as per Christian belief-system, but as per other belief-systems also, God is everywhere. So when these scientists are saying that the void is a real void, God is already dead and non-existent for them. But these scientists know very well that non-existence of God will not be finally established until and unless it is shown that the origin of the universe can also be explained without invoking God. Creation event is the ultimate event where God will have to be made redundant, and if that can be done successfully then that will prove beyond any reasonable doubt that God does not exist. So how have they accomplished that job, the job of making God redundant in case of creation event? These were the steps:
    1) God is non-existent, and so, the void is a real void. Without the pre-supposition that God does not exist, it cannot be concluded that the void is a real void.
    2) As virtual particles can come out of the void, so also the entire universe. Our universe has actually originated from the void due to a quantum fluctuation in it.
    3) This shows that God was not necessary to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going, as because there was no creation event.
    4) This further shows that God does not exist.
    So here what is to be proved has been proved based on the assumption that it has already been proved. Philosophy is already dead for these scientists. Is it that logic is also dead for them?

    • Vinod Wadhawan

      The laws of physics (particularly quantum mechanics and the gravitational interaction) can explain how our universe came into existence. Why are the laws of physics what they are? The apparent laws in our universe are only one possible set of laws from among a huge number of sets of laws, and we exist because our existence is compatible with this set of laws and fundamental constants. Other universes may have other sets of apparent laws of physics.

      Why is the gravitational interaction what it is? It may be that other universes have other versions of the gravitational interaction. All that is needed is that there should be at least one interaction which is attractive (rather than repulsive), and proportional to the masses involved.

      Why should there be any attractive interactions at all? If there were none, we shall not be here, discussing this question.

      Why should there be any laws of physics at all? Somebody must have created them; God created them. But who created God, and gave him/her all the powers? Some humans created God. In fact, different humans created different gods!

      There are plenty of natural phenomena which we cannot explain, at least for the time being. Answers will come gradually as science makes progress. But the scientific method is all we have for getting those answers. There is no other way.

    • Satish Chandra

      You need to define what you mean by god. Science does show that god doesn’t exist (where god = Jesus, Allah, Krishna, Brahman, Zeus etc…)

  • Rajiv Parti MD

    Vinod,
    Thanks for the great article.I had got the bood “Great Design” but could not understand it but now will try reading again.
    You mention Deepak Chopra he may be poor with his quantum physics knowledge but is laughing his way yo the bank.Peddling
    his mumbo-jumbo like. Chopra-woo
    Universal Consciousness
    Consciousness which survives death.
    Non-locality
    Simultaneity etc
    I know it first hand have spent thousands of dollars going to his seminars/courses.
    Now he has come out with a new book with Leonard Mlodinow
    War of Worldviews .Have you read it ?

    • Vinod Wadhawan

      Rajiv, you should describe in some detail your experience with Deepak Chopra. I have not the book he has coauthored with Mlodinow. There are better ways to spend my time.

  • Dear Vinod ji,

    Thank you for your response and providing me with the link to your blog site. I partially agree with the first point you made. Can I just say that it is our perception of reality that changes with progress in scientific approach, methods and technology, while the “reality” as whole remains unchanged?

    I disagree with the point that a theory is acceptable because it is the “best we have”, even though it has many fundamental flaws which need to be addressed. Similar arguments were put forth by the proponents of Ptolemaic model of the Universe which was institutionalized by the religion. This idea stagnated all the real progress in astronomy and cosmology for more than a millenia until Copernicus and Galileo came along and proved that Ptolemaic model of the Universe was not a valid one. Similarly, there are many evidences that have been found today that contradict the BB or the Lambda CDM theory yet the scientific community still propagates it as “best theory we have”, which in my view, is stifling scientific thought and outlook and preventing larger parts of the academia to look into the alternative. Also, I am not sure if an undergraduate can write his or her thesis contradicting the “established” theory and expect to get his/her degree. To get formal recognition, they have to “fall in line”.

    a. The BB or the LCDM does not resolve the horizon problem, flatness problem or the monopole problem.

    b. Alternative explanations for CMBR are never mentioned.

    c. The red-shift is not only due to “Doppler’s Effect” but can also be caused by “Compton Effect” and “Tired Light” and these are very rarely mentioned. Halton Arp’s discovery of discordant red shift is also not mentioned much.

    d. BB initially predicted that Universe’s expansion was slowing down and this view was firmly held in place a little over a decade ago by the scientific establishment and then we hear that the expansion has been in fact accelerating and there we go about bringing in more exotic stuff like dark matter and dark energy of which we haven’t found any evidence.

    e. The rotation curve of the galaxies remains a mystery, for which we try to find no other alternative explanation but rely on hypothetical dark matter.

    f. The current emphasis on String theory and 11 dimensions (3 dimensions in real world plus the fourth dimension , the time) and then extra 7 dimensions that nobody has seen or understood. These are just abstract mathematical entities that remain on paper and not know to exist in the real world.

    As far as I am concerned, string theory, dark matter, dark energy, parallel universe etc remains within the realms of “uncertainty” and hence unprovable, yet we have a group of scientists who “believe” that they exist, just because their models tell them so, even though no empirical data, no solid evidence exists to prove that they do exist. Doesn’t it sound like Astrology, where mathematical calculations are employed to predict a future event or a course of events? This is why I say that academic places have become more like theological estates rather than garden of free scientific thought process and the media is just propagating this version and it is against this type of attitude of the academia and the media I am speaking against.

    • Vinod Wadhawan

      Our perception of reality, i.e. model-dependent reality, is the only thing that matters. We have no way of knowing if anything else is there or not. If you do not agree, please try to define reality.

      Wrong theories do hinder progress, but there is always the most accepted theory at any given point of time. We cannot do better than that.

      Of course there are competing theories. Nobody is claiming that the ultimate ‘theory of everything’ has been found. And nobody is prevented from working on any theory of his/her choice. It is simply that there is a majority viewpoint at any point of time. Any viewpoint can turn out to be wrong. What is the problem?

      PS. I shall discuss the horizon problem, the flatness problem etc. in one of my future blog posts.

  • Agreed Vinod,

    Science is progressing and not finished giving ‘theory of everything’.

    Does this mean that what all the science is saying or scientific method has established is all beyond doubt? It has succeeded to the extent of giving only comfort and not yet solved the big question beyond that. It has given us the complacency well within the definitions of the science itself and not beyond that.

    The problem is that this science has gone beyond its achievement and made the Vedanta like ‘foolish’ full of superstitions WITHOUT EVER UNDERSTANDING WHAT IT ACTUALLY MEAN OR WITHOUT POSING THE RELEVANT QUESTIONS EITHER’ Isn’t such sort of science with such sort of scientists especially athiests/naturalists committing a fraud far worse than the religious dogmatists (who do not understand either Vedanta as well)?

    Essence: Science is yet to make a long (infinite?) journey and even before it has started questioning the Vedanta even without understanding it. Do you justify this?? I am not for Gods which is never in the Vedanta in true sense and Brahman is altogether different topic.

    • Are you Ramesh – The Troll, the ever watchful and diligent sentinel of religious apologists.

      Maybe I am walking into a troll trap, but nevertheless will hazard this risk

      You started with what seemed like an honest doubt or question about the scope and methodology of science, but in a trice and lightning quick digression and volte face ended up flashing the Vedanta card trying to allege a conflict between Vedanta and science.

      IMO, this article is not about Vedanta. There is discussion of cosmology, but the fantasies of Vedanta seem to be the least of the concerns of the article.

      To establish the primitiveness and absurdity of the cosmology of the Upanishads (Vedanta), it does not require sophisticated science. Practical philosophy and strong critical reasoning have already exposed the ‘emperor’s clothes’ of vedantic myths and beliefs.

      I will not delve into the details of how critical reasoning can and has debunked the imposture and fraudulence of Vedantic thought, as it has been done many times in Nirmukta and its fora and other freethought media. Also there is no need to accord respectability to the fool-hardiness of the obstinacy of the apologists of Vedanta, by engaging them in all their trivialities.

      And in such a short comment of Ramesh, there are so many ambiguities. Here are some of them in quotes:

      - “The problem is that this science has gone beyond its achievement”

      It is hard to figure out what this means. What I can sense is Ramesh’s frustration that Science is making Vedanta look foolish, without “truly understanding it”.

      But for this sorry fate of Vedanta, Vedanta tself and its countless apologists are to blame, not science.

      It is surprising that Ramesh expects atheists/naturalists to understand when by his own confession “religious dogmatists (who do not understand either Vedanta as well”

      Now if Ramesh is neither an atheist/naturalist nor a religious dogmatist, what is he then, apart from being a pesky troll?

      - “Science is yet to make a long (infinite?) journey and even before it has started questioning the Vedanta even without understanding it.”

      Again it is hard to make out what an infinite journey is and how is science is making such a journey, for what and to where?. Vague and poorly framed argument and query. Also why should science be concerned with Vedanta and its numerous confusions and abstractions. Again an instance of attempting to make out irrelevant connections between 2 totally different issues.

      - “I am not for Gods which is never in the Vedanta in true sense and Brahman is altogether different topic.”

      Case here of a false, deceptive and slippery argument. “If Gods are never in the Vedanta in true sense”, are they there in a false sense? Indians are supposed to be following Vedanta, yet millions are worshipping Gods, “which is never in the Vedanta in true sense”, so who is foolish, Vedanta or millions of believers or both or neither?.

      - “Isn’t such sort of science with such sort of scientists especially athiests/naturalists committing a fraud far worse than the religious dogmatists”

      What sort of science? and what sort of scientists? and how are they committing a fraud? and what sort of fraud? Critics need specifics. It is very difficult to attempt answering half-baked or unbaked questions.

      Ramesh, you need to frame your questions properly and cite specifics and facts that can clarify the assumptions and bases of your questions or arguments. In the absence of such clarity, you cannot expect meaningful answers. Else expect a backlash of scarcasm and fallacy-finding from critics, that too up to a point and not more.

    • The following subsections of a recently published article make especially relevant reading, in the context of such routine allegations by apologists.

      Unexplained is not inexplicable

      Glittering generalities

      Overreliance on authority

      • @Ranganath: ‘Trolling’- it will be so as long as you fail to see what I have stated. It is quite clear that none of you are able to see what I stated. Here I repeat it once more in different way just in r/o single item to start with.

        Re: There is discussion of cosmology, but the fantasies of Vedanta seem to be the least of the concerns of the article

        May be for you it is just cosmology, but for a true scientist it is a matter of ‘theory of everything’ of which this cosmology is just a part! Yes umpteen number of times I have made it clear that if there is something which is common to Science and Vedanta it is likes of ‘theory of everything’ (say x). For science it is yet to be realized. However every branch/principle/law of science stands derived from this x, in principle. Vedanta deals with nothing but this x since it says it (x) to be non-nonexistent (calling is to be as MAYA)and for which it is independent of scientific methods (see next comment addressed to Vinod). If your reasoning is intact you may be able to see the relationship between Vedanta and cosmology. Let me wait here to see if you agree to this or otherwise. It would be waste of time and energy to address rest part of your comment. Let us deal one issue at a time.

        @ Vinod: I was shocked you related my comment with ‘faith’! Vedanta has never been a topic of faith. It is total misconception. Felt greatly disappointed by your comment.

        Re: H&M argue that we can only have ‘model-dependent reality‘, and that any other notion of reality is meaningless.

        It means that there is no such a concept like absolute reality and what we see is just relative (in Vedic terms MAYA). However the problem of ‘human quest’ has always been this beyond relative reality (In vedic terms Brahman the nature of which is neti, neti) and cause of pain by way of not knowing it. Is there any reason to call such a MAYA and BRAHMAN to be unscientific to this extent? Is the scientific method relevant in the realm of model-independent reality for which the atheists are pressing for?

        For having misunderstood the Vedanta for faith, spirituality etc how then atheist/scientists can find a common ground with the Vedanta? Isn’t it a blatant misinterpretation, misunderstanding?

  • ‘I saw a car with the license plate ARW 357. Can you imagine?
    ———————–
    Wow
    Thats mind blowing.
    Oh wait, not really. Considering you’re comparing a trivial occurrence with zero significance to the fact that an explosion occurred and you sprang out of the ground into Reality to view a beautiful universe.

    It amazes me how unsophisticated atheists are.

    Imagine you are an observer of both events. You witness side by side one universe in which someone is surprised about a license plate.
    Next to that you observe Nothing spring into something. Tiny infinitesimal particles become charged and perfect equilibrium is achieved in that things start fitting together like Lego’s. Just the atom alone would be the most improbable event ever witnessed.
    Umpteen trillion other lego forming actions occur and DNA has formulated the exact position in space of a 4 chamber heart with its precise electrical frequency all mapped out along with a mind boggling network of nerves running through a brain to observe the most beautiful infinite colors of the visible spectrum.

    The thoughtless Universe has produced a living being that can See when it no business knowing there is such a thing as seeing.
    Your hindsight is all backwards :) You take for granted there is even the notion of particles, laws, space when there could just as well have been a bag of hammers.

    You see my friend, almost every single human being in the history of earth knows we are created and designed in all of 3 seconds. Even without all the blatant fine tuning evidence. To claim the entire human race is ridiculous and you are the pinnacle of reason is exactly why you hope for an infinite universe maker to explain why you dont have to love God. This is about the heart not your IQ.
    Newton was surely the smartest man that ever lived and nothing he saw today would change his mind about Christ. Understanding mechanisms will never account for design and Agency. M Theory is nothing but kickin the can down the street when you know you’re beaten. Its a direct result of atheism–not science. It produces worlds much harder to explain than ours with superheros, gods, unkillable people, Mount Rushmores carved by the wind and skies with suns that spell out “this is the awesome multiverse.”

    Why is it that the only insanely improbable things you’re trying to explain is every event that led to life and fail to notice there are no other insanely improbable things in existence? You’ve observer selected for the only things that eliminate God– yet we see no other such things.
    The odds of a perfect human face in stone are infinitely more probable than consciousness. We should be witnessing other odds defying amazement but we see nothing but a universe with probabilistic order.

    Sorry, but an infinite world maker is just embarrassing philosophy to sweep the evidence under the rug and will be the death of unbiased science.

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