What Hawking Actually Meant

I recently posted a message on the God’s Not Dead IMDb message board here, in which I clarified what Stephen Hawking actually meant when he writes that “philosophy is dead.” My clarification resulted in me being accused of being an agent of Satan. Below, you’ll find the contents of my original post.

I remember reading The Grand Design back in 2010. One of the things that surprised me most about the book was Hawking’s regular use of dry humor—often by means of hyperbole.

I’m reminded of this because Hawking recently joined Facebook. His sense of humor remains present, as reflected in one of his most recent posts:

I greatly enjoyed the STARMUS festival. It is a combination of science and rock music, both of which I love. I was interested in the talks by the astronauts and why the Soviet Union didn’t beat Neil Armstrong to the Moon. I will have to read the transcript, because I didn’t understand the translation. I enjoyed hearing how Bob Wilson eliminated pigeons, they thought the microwave background was caused by pigeon droppings, and Richard Dawkins on alien life. Some people say I’m an alien myself, with my robot voice.

In God’s Not Dead, Josh Wheaton smugly announces to a classroom full of students, “Hawking insists that philosophy is dead!” This statement goes completely unquestioned by his audience. However, for those of who actually read Hawking’s book, this line is facepalm-inducingly stupid as someone who might read the above Facebook post and smugly declare, “Hawking insists that he’s an alien robot!!”

In context, Hawking writes:

Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge. The purpose of this book is to give the answers that are suggested by recent discoveries and theoretical advances. They lead us to a new picture of the universe and our place in it that is very different from the traditional one, and different even from the picture we might have painted just a decade or two ago. Still, the first sketches of the new concept can be traced back almost a century.

Hawking spends the next few chapters outlining the history of the philosophy of science, and he argues that model-dependent realism is the culmination of that history of scientific inquiry. The remainder of the book explores the physics behind M-theory with that framework in mind.

Obviously, the writers of God’s Not Dead did not read Hawking’s book. My hunch is that they skimmed a Christian blog’s misinterpretation of it and incorporated that misinterpretation of it into their movie. That’s frustrating enough in itself, but when you’re sitting in a theater full of people who are chuckling at how “clever” the aforementioned line about Stephen Hawking is (none of whom have read Hawking’s book, either), you begin to lose all hope for humanity.

All that I can do at this point is continue to tell the truth as much as possible and as loudly as possible. And maybe—just maybe—a few of you out there will take a step back and say, “Hey, those people who told me that the book with the talking donkey is ‘the word of God’ might not have been completely honest with me. And maybe that guy in the wheelchair has a point.”

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Understanding Evolution

After a family member shared the first image in this post to his Facebook page, I feel the need to offer a rudimentary introduction to evolution at a grade-school level–again.


Enough is enough.

This is one of the most misunderstood topics there is. It’s really simple. The problem is that it’s not intuitive. So, unless you learn it properly, you’ll listen to the misleading nonsense and fail to grasp its simplicity, beauty and truth. I’ll explain by example.

Evolution is NOT this:

  1. An animal lives in a place where it has to stretch its neck high to reach leaves (its food).
  2. It stretches for a lifetime, eating and stretching.
  3. It dies, eventually, having stretched its neck two millimetres longer over many years.
  4. Before dying, it gives birth to offspring with slightly longer necks (passing on the trait).
  5. They live their lives in the same way, stretching, adding more length to their neck length.
  6. They pass on this trait to their offspring.
  7. And so on, until a thousand years later, you’ve got a giraffe.

Don’t be impressed by misleading images such…

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Re: What caused you to leave your religion?

Question: “What convinced you to leave your religion? I myself am an atheist and would like to hear other people’s reasons/stories.”

My response:

That’s a question that literally needs a novel to describe in detail—so I’ll keep this as brief as I can.

It began with a willingness to question myself—or at least being forced to question myself when I discovered atheism on the Internet. After that, it moved on to a discovery of formal skepticism (how to properly identify logical fallacies, etc.)—and realizing as a result of that knowledge that many of the apologetic arguments I thought were valid were, to my dismay, invalid.

The more I learned, the less I believed. Philosophy, anthropology, history, biology, physics, and other fields of study all led me to one conclusion: If God exists, then he, she, or it is absolutely determined to build a universe in which it appears that no God exists.

Finally, it was apparent that the religion I was raised with (Protestant Christianity) made absolutely no sense. God wants us to believe based on the teachings of the New Testament, but he didn’t bother preserving the original manuscripts? Salvation is unconditional—under the condition of belief? God loves everyone—so he created Hell? God’s morality is static and objective—but moral pronouncements on matters like slavery change over time? God is not the author of confusion—but there are thousands of different Christian denominations, not to mention other religions?

The more questions I asked, the less sense it made. When I posed these questions to other Christians, the responses were pathetic. “God can do what he wants with His creation.” “You don’t understand: God is God.” “God’s ways are higher than our ways.” “Leave those questions in God’s hands.” “Just look at the trees!” “It takes more faith to be an atheist.”

In fact, I was sometimes accused of being an atheist simply because I was asking the difficult questions. Then more accusations came along: “You choose to believe there is no God because you want sin.” “You just want to believe there is no God because you want to go to Hell.” “You’re blinded by Satan.” The list goes on.

As a result of this quest for understanding my own beliefs, my original belief in Christianity dissolved. In its place, I discovered the joys of discovery through science—the joy of living the one life I know I have to its utmost—and the joy of being at peace about the idea of death. I could finally fully embrace the humility of recognizing my position as a finite, mortal human being. Demons, souls, and Hells were imaginary.

Ultimately, the feeling was one of freedom.

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November 05, 2014 at 10:46AM

Don't Die!

There is a lot of religious Nihilism in the world right now and it’s not helping our chances of living forever.

Most religions preach that death is inevitable no matter what, because they think death is ordained by God. They also teach that one should accept death and even embrace death as a good thing, because after all, it’s not about THIS WORLD. According to them, it’s about your eternal future in the supposed afterlife. Needless to say, there is NO PROOF for any of that. As I’m sure you already know, all Gods are unproven hypothetical conjecture, and there is very likely No afterlife… which is why it’s so important that we strive for immortality with advancements in science and technology, or by any other available means (let me know if you find any).

Religious people do not take responsibility for their eternal life. They hand it off to…

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Words Worth Repeating #5

Still thinking about protest-voting for a Libertarian? Here’s something to think about. Do you know *why* your Libertarian candidate of choice has no chance on the ballot? Are you tired of those “pretend” libertarians like Rand Paul giving everybody a bad impression of what you True Libertarians (TM) actually believe?

Your only choices right now are to (A) join the Republican party and toe their party line, which rightly offends your social libertarian sensibilities, or (B) accept your role as an also-ran. The Republicans just have too much money, and the system is rigged so that they can get more anytime they need it. The electoral rules have been rigged so that any third party candidate would have to be spectacularly wealthy to even get on the podium for a presidential election. Remember Ross Perot? The spectacularly wealthy 3rd party candidate from… 20 years ago? That was before the rules were rigged. You’d have to have even more money now.

You know who rigged the rules? Republicans. By *deregulating* corporate campaign contributions. (Wait… shouldn’t have mentioned that… should I… Deregulation is good. Nothing to see here…)

That’s just a fact, jack. The Democrats… The DEMOCRATS… originated a bill on this very calendar year which would have overturned Citizens United, the rule that hopelessly rigged elections for the mega-rich. Republicans killed it.

I get that you don’t like taxes. You want to be able to… I dunno… have your own private fire department or something. That’s all well and good, but you never have a shot at getting it until election laws are reformed. The DEMOCRATS have election reform on their party platform.

For crying out loud, take one for the team this year. Vote Democrat, and maybe you can have your own Pakistan in 2020 after we get corrupt money out of politics.

–William Hamby, via Facebook

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NPR says that science has a faith problem

Why Evolution Is True

Yep, it’s National Public Radio again, and again the cosmos & culture blog, where Marcelo Gleiser, a professor of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth, has taken it upon himself to tell us that a). science can go “too far”, and b). it does so when scientists cling to beliefs that are either largely refuted or a bit shaky, a recalcitrance he sees as a form of “faith.”

Unfortunately, his article, “Can scientific belief go too far?“, fails to make a strong case that science does go too far.  In fact, he cites only two examples (of course there are more) where scientists have been resistant to accepting a new paradigm, or cling to an old one when the data are equivocal.

The first is simply some physicists’ refusal in past decades to accept the quantum-mechanics conclusion that nature is fundamentally indeterminate:

In the classical world, the one we see around us…

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RE: The Omniwank of New Atheism

My response:

4:44 “I think a moderate religion is good for society.”

Citation needed.

Society without God by Phil Zuckerman and What You Don’t Know About Religion (but Should) by Ryan Cragun both quantify the relationship between religiosity and societal health in detail with tangible data. You’ll have to read both of those books in their entireties to examine all factors in detail, but I think Zuckerman summarizes it best on page 29 of his book:

“In sum, when it comes to overall quality of life, according to The Economist’s Quality of Life Index, which measures 111 nations as to which are the ‘best’ places to live in the world, taking into consideration multiple factors, such as income, health, freedom, unemployment, family life, climate, political stability, life-satisfaction, gender equality, etc., Sweden ranked fifth in the world and Denmark ranked ninth. And of the top 20 nations with the best quality of life, most of them—as you can guess by now—are relatively irreligious societies.”

If you want to seriously argue that “moderate religion is good for society,” collect your own data and see if it contradicts the findings by Zuckerman and Cragun.

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