0799: "Stephen Hawking"

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby yedidyak » Wed Sep 29, 2010 9:42 am UTC

markfiend wrote:OK fine. I'll quit with the Emperor's new clothes thing.

But why bother trying to match the state of current knowledge with the Bible? Why not try to match it up with the Eddas? Or the Greek creation myths? Or the Aztec creation myths? Or... (Well you get the point.)

The reason that I can dismiss Gerald Schroeder as a crank is as follows:

Genesis Chapter 1, summary: (quickly typed up with reference to Genesis chapter 1 here)
Day 1: Creation of light and darkness
Day 2: Creation of the firmament, separation of waters above the firmament from those below it.
Day 3: Creation of dry land, and of land plants
Day 4: Creation of great lights (Sun and Moon)
Day 5: Creation of water animals and of birds
Day 6: Creation of land animals and mankind.

So, plants (never mind the Earth itself) come before the Sun? Birds come before land animals?

Listen, I don't have a problem with Genesis as mythology. I don't have a problem with religious believers. But trying to claim that the Genesis story matches up in any meaningful way with reality... I have a problem with.


Well, as it was mentioned many many years ago, creation of the sun means seeing the sun from Earth. It seems sort of obvious when the words morning and evening had already been used. So yes, the first plants formed when the atmosphere was not yet transparent. 'Birds' is a mistranslation for 'flying creatures', so again, yes, flying insects came before mammals.

Again, did you think that you thought of these questions first?

I find it amusing that you can so easily 'dismiss as a crank' someone with a doctorate in nuclear physics and earth and planetary sciences from MIT.

I think that you have to see how a religious believer would come at this. On the one hand, a single chapter out of the entire bible deals with creation. It really isn't that central. On the other hand it is there, and as a believer, genesis isn't 'mythology' in the classical sense, but is there for a reason. Personally, I think that the correlation between modern scientific explanation, and a proper reading of the creation account as explained by classic Jewish commentaries is too strong to ignore. Of course, if you don't come from the viewpoint of the bible being divine, then this will be extremely hard to accept, but I still think an objective look would be interesting.

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby Kyrn » Wed Sep 29, 2010 9:53 am UTC

markfiend wrote:
Kyrn wrote:You're still taking things too literally.

o.O
If you're going to distort -- oh, sorry, interpret -- the text so much that it no longer says anything remotely related to what it says, then why bother keeping it at all?

Your "explanation" is nothing of the kind.


Just as we treat reality as truth, then apply mathematics to attempt to explain it, we can potentially treat the Bible and reality as truth, and attempt to explain them. And there is no reason to argue against, since it also assumes all your science to be true as well. Not to mention that any Bible we have now is invariably an interpretation of sayings passed down through time, translated and re-translated. Not to mention that it is a sort of re-learning what we already know, just correcting misconceptions.
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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby yedidyak » Wed Sep 29, 2010 9:58 am UTC

To Kyrn - try this, remember that as the universe expands our time slows down relative to time passing at the speed it did at the point and moment of the big bang, so 'days' get logarithmically shorter.

Day 1 - Big Bang, formation of all matter in energy form, almost immediately forming matter. at this point light would suddenly become visible as photons can escape, 'separating light and darkness'.

2 - Matter (which in biblical Hebrew can be called 'mayim' also meaning water) separates into different clusters, forming galaxies etc, and then the Earth around a 2nd or 3rd generation star. (Remember of course that the accepted classical reading of the Hebrew shows the formation and destruction of 'worlds' before Earth was formed.)

3 - Seas form on Earth as the temperature drops. Immediately life starts. (An interesting phenomena as yet unexplained by science. If formation of life was the collision of a large amount of complex amino acids and stuff, it would have taken a lot of time. if you try to work out how long, it takes longer than the universe has existed. But maybe a solution will be found someday) Fish (i.e. all water-dwelling life forms) and plants form.

4 - The atmosphere as we know it forms, making the sky transparent.

5 - Large fish, i.e. larger than single cells form, and insects.

6 - All phyla we have today form in one burst of evolution. (Cambrian explosion). Finally Man. Of course, all commentators and the Talmud refer to 'animals exactly like man but without souls' coexisting with Adam, so 'Man being created' means an existing homo-sapiens being given a 'soul'. There you move into spirituality.

Of course, this is pretty simplistic. There's a lot more to it of course, and if you understand biblical Hebrew it makes more sense than 'interpreting' straight form the English translation of the Latin translation of the Greek deliberate mistranslation of the Hebrew. For example, in genesis 1:2 instead of 'empty and waste' it actually means 'chaos containing everything' etc.

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby markfiend » Wed Sep 29, 2010 10:19 am UTC

yedidyak wrote:Well, as it was mentioned many many years ago, creation of the sun means seeing the sun from Earth. It seems sort of obvious when the words morning and evening had already been used. So yes, the first plants formed when the atmosphere was not yet transparent. 'Birds' is a mistranslation for 'flying creatures', so again, yes, flying insects came before mammals.

But that is not what the text says. The text quite clearly says that god made the Sun and Moon on the fourth day, your hand-waving notwithstanding.
yedidyak wrote:Again, did you think that you thought of these questions first?

Of course not. But I'm hardly surprised that you've failed to answer them. Just tried to hand-wave them away.
yedidyak wrote:I find it amusing that you can so easily 'dismiss as a crank' someone with a doctorate in nuclear physics and earth and planetary sciences from MIT.

If it walks like a duck... PhD's are a dime a dozen. Is it meant to impress me? Argument from authority fail.
yedidyak wrote:I think that you have to see how a religious believer would come at this. On the one hand, a single chapter out of the entire bible deals with creation. It really isn't that central.

Fine. But in that case I don't understand why you make such a big deal of trying to shove the square peg of the Universe into the Genesis account's round hole?
yedidyak wrote:On the other hand it is there, and as a believer, genesis isn't 'mythology' in the classical sense, but is there for a reason. Personally, I think that the correlation between modern scientific explanation, and a proper reading of the creation account as explained by classic Jewish commentaries is too strong to ignore.

"Too strong to ignore" meaning, in this case "completely invisible unless you want to see it." Which is the point I was trying to make.
yedidyak wrote: Of course, if you don't come from the viewpoint of the bible being divine, then this will be extremely hard to accept, but I still think an objective look would be interesting.

I took an objective look. Your hypothesis fails, and fails hard. The only way you can make it fit is by egregious misreading of the text and wilful ignorance of reality.
yedidyak wrote:remember that as the universe expands our time slows down relative to time passing at the speed it did at the point and moment of the big bang, so 'days' get logarithmically shorter.

That makes no sense whatsoever. How do you measure the "speed of time"? Seconds per second? :lol: You're just betraying your scientific illiteracy.

And with the rest of your 6-day fantasy, again, that is not what the text says.
yedidyak wrote:If formation of life was the collision of a large amount of complex amino acids and stuff, it would have taken a lot of time. if you try to work out how long, it takes longer than the universe has existed.

[citation needed] Current abiogenesis research suggests that the transition from pre-biotic chemistry to proto-life would probably have taken place relatively quickly (less than 10M years).
yedidyak wrote:All phyla we have today form in one burst of evolution. (Cambrian explosion)

Wrong. Not all current phyla are found in Cambrian fossils.
yedidyak wrote:For example, in genesis 1:2 instead of 'empty and waste' it actually means 'chaos containing everything' etc.

Ah. So according to (your interpretation of) the Bible god didn't create the Universe, the "chaos containing everything" was pre-existing and god just mucked about with it? Good to know.
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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby darthdavid » Wed Sep 29, 2010 10:25 am UTC

Really though what's the point? The bible is a just a bunch of bronze age folktales, translated from translations of translations and full of numerous changes to support the political and personal goals of a myriad of authors, editors and translators. Even if it was actually originally the word of god it's been changed so many times over the years (and our culture is so different from what it was then) that I'd hardly want to rely on it for guidance today.

But it a way, that whole line of argument misses the point. The fact of the matter is that religion is unnecessary. Religion claims to be the absolute standard of truth and morality in the world. It's neither. The bible if full of nonsense, blatant untruths and 'morality' that's been used to justify slavery, genocide, conquest, forced conversions and numerous other misdeeds. At the end of the day the only way to justify following the damn book is to stick your head in the sand and pretend it actually says something a sane moral person could agree with, stick your head in the sand and pretend that science is a conspiracy and that any moral system invented post enlightenment (and quite a few pre-) is the devil's work or to make up a bunch of doublethink, call everything a metaphor and pat yourself on the back. Why bother? Why shackle your mind to the thoroughly babble-fished folktales of a bunch of bronze age herdsmen?

Any story can mean anything if you're willing to abstract it enough, but why would you have to if it was actually the word of god? If he actually made shit shouldn't his word make sense? If he didn't make anything why care about him? If it's not the word of god what's more interesting about it than any other old-ass folktale?
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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby Frankie » Wed Sep 29, 2010 10:26 am UTC

Kyrn wrote:
markfiend wrote:o.O
If you're going to distort -- oh, sorry, interpret -- the text so much that it no longer says anything remotely related to what it says, then why bother keeping it at all?


Just as we treat reality as truth, then apply mathematics to attempt to explain it, we can potentially treat the Bible and reality as truth, and attempt to explain them.


Umm... no. We treat reality as truth because the alternative is absurd. The whole point of the scientific method is to construct models that increasingly match reality. Nothing else gets to use that as a reason.

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby NotAllThere » Wed Sep 29, 2010 10:28 am UTC

Hee hee. Perhaps I should have ended my last post with "Lights blue touch paper, retires to safe distance". :lol:

Religion does not equal theology. Theology is the study of (one or more) religious systems. It's as much an intellectual exercise as any other mainstream degree subject. I hardly think Oxford or Cambridge would offer it as a study course if it was just a matter of believing in magic and faeries. Or that "well, God made it so".

:shock: oops. We seem to have entered a time loop back to the 2nd of August 2010. :mrgreen:
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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby yedidyak » Wed Sep 29, 2010 10:46 am UTC

The Biblical account of creation has never been taken literally by Jewish commentators. the attitude has generally been that if there is a conflict between what science says and what the Bible says, it is either because science is misunderstood, or the interpretation of the Bible is wrong. That is what i meant by saying the account of creation is not central. What I was trying (badly) to explain was Schroeder's theory of how they fit together. It took him a book to explain it well. I tried badly in one post, don't judge it from that. Personally, I like the theory, because I've read the books and they made a lot of sense. If you look back on the thread someone asked if there was a theory linking relative time-frames to the biblical account, so I tried to explain one I saw. I realise that Im not going to be able to do it justice as I lack the phd in physics to explain it properly.

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby Callista » Wed Sep 29, 2010 10:59 am UTC

The Creation account is written as a poem--more evidence that it's meant as a figurative interpretation rather than a scientific document.

Anyway, the Bible isn't a scientific document; it focuses almost exclusively on the history of the Jewish people and then the early church, and on theology and ethics.

The Bible talks about stuff that isn't material--you can't stuff God into a test tube; you can't perform medical tests on a human soul. Science just doesn't intersect with that kind of thing. It doesn't even intersect with ethics very much; however important it is for scientists to behave ethically, it's not science itself that determines what those laws of morality should be.

The only thing that both science and theology have in common is that they both need to follow the rules of logic; a theologian trying to argue the existence of God and an atheist trying to disprove it both need to make statements that don't contradict themselves, and so do scientists theorizing about the nature of the physical world.

They are quite simply separate fields, though, and I wish people would realize that.

BTW--atheism has been used to justify deeds of cruelty too; many Communist countries did so. That doesn't mean atheists are sociopaths, any more than it means Christians are naturally cruel. Both groups are fallible human beings, capable of both cruelty and kindness, and unfortunately capable of using a belief system to justify their actions.

In other news: I would hate to be Stephen Hawking; can you imagine every word you say being blasted across the headlines like that? *shudder* You could never ever make a misstatement or a mistake or casually say something you didn't mean... ever. :shock:

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby mister k » Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:03 am UTC

yedidyak wrote:The Biblical account of creation has never been taken literally by Jewish commentators. the attitude has generally been that if there is a conflict between what science says and what the Bible says, it is either because science is misunderstood, or the interpretation of the Bible is wrong. That is what i meant by saying the account of creation is not central. What I was trying (badly) to explain was Schroeder's theory of how they fit together. It took him a book to explain it well. I tried badly in one post, don't judge it from that. Personally, I like the theory, because I've read the books and they made a lot of sense. If you look back on the thread someone asked if there was a theory linking relative time-frames to the biblical account, so I tried to explain one I saw. I realise that Im not going to be able to do it justice as I lack the phd in physics to explain it properly.



Doesn't it make more sense, from the point of view of one who believes, to suppose that the bible is a text inspired by God, but often filled with stuff clearly not from God, and write off passages such as Genesis as being the latter, rather than coming up with absurd explanations to try and let Genesis be actually true, and predictive
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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby yedidyak » Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:09 am UTC

mister k wrote:Doesn't it make more sense, from the point of view of one who believes, to suppose that the bible is a text inspired by God, but often filled with stuff clearly not from God, and write off passages such as Genesis as being the latter, rather than coming up with absurd explanations to try and let Genesis be actually true, and predictive


Not if a basic part of your religion is that the Pentateuch is entirely divine.

Look, explanations for Genesis / science range from 'God made the world with dinosaur skeletons' through interpretations to fit Genesis to modern theories through to 'Its all symbolic'. All of those have been around for 1000s of years, just adapting to fit newer scientific theories. Schroeder's is somewhere along that line. Remember, until relatively recently the accepted scientific view was that there was no creation, the world had existed for ever.

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:43 am UTC

The reinterpretation of religious texts to correspond with contemporary scientific theories seems to defeat the purpose of the religious texts entirely.

You have a body of religious beliefs. As support for those beliefs, you appeal to a supposedly authoritative text stating those beliefs. Someone else points out how your supposedly authoritative text contains clear factual errors and so cannot actually serve as authoritative support for any beliefs. That doesn't prove the beliefs false, but it knocks out one line of support for those beliefs.

In response, to rescue the supposedly authoritative text, you allow it to be interpreted to mean things other than what it actually says, so that the clearly factually erroneous parts are not so clearly factually erroneous. The problem with this approach it, it is now not at all clear what beliefs the text supports; it can be interpreted to support beliefs we hold true for other reasons, but then it could also be interpreted to support or not support any variety of other beliefs. It's now possible to interpret in a way that it does not support the beliefs for the support of which you were originally appealing to it.

So in trying to rescue the support for your beliefs, you undermine its usefulness as a support, and instead only show that the text in question is not necessarily in contradiction with other known truths, nor with your own beliefs. But neither does it necessarily prove those known truths nor your own beliefs; now it's all a question of interpretation, which just pushes the problem back further (i.e. how do we know which interpretation is correct?). So your own beliefs are now unsupported, unless you have something else to support them, in which case, why do you care about said text to begin with?
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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby markfiend » Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:48 am UTC

yedidyak wrote:Not if a basic part of your religion is that the Pentateuch is entirely divine.

You can't have it both ways. If Genesis is an entirely divine account, it ought to be inerrant and correct on all points, without needing "interpretation" to make it say things it clearly doesn't say.
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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby yedidyak » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:00 pm UTC

markfiend wrote:
yedidyak wrote:Not if a basic part of your religion is that the Pentateuch is entirely divine.

You can't have it both ways. If Genesis is an entirely divine account, it ought to be inerrant and correct on all points, without needing "interpretation" to make it say things it clearly doesn't say.


'Correct' in what way? And how exactly would you explain the big bang and formation of the universe in a way comprehensible to people in the Bronze Age?

Anyway, the first question asked by any commentator is why we need to know it at all. The Torah is meant to be a book of Law. The word 'Torah' could be translated as 'instruction' 'law' or even 'manual'. The whole creation part is not really relevant. Also, the entire Torah was written to be interpreted and explained. It is kind of hard top explain the foundation of Jewish Biblical understanding in a forum post, and I haven't much time before a festival tonight, and so I won't get into it now.

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby aleflamedyud » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:02 pm UTC

yedidyak wrote:
markfiend wrote:
yedidyak wrote:Not if a basic part of your religion is that the Pentateuch is entirely divine.

You can't have it both ways. If Genesis is an entirely divine account, it ought to be inerrant and correct on all points, without needing "interpretation" to make it say things it clearly doesn't say.


'Correct' in what way? And how exactly would you explain the big bang and formation of the universe in a way comprehensible to people in the Bronze Age?

Anyway, the first question asked by any commentator is why we need to know it at all. The Torah is meant to be a book of Law. The word 'Torah' could be translated as 'instruction' 'law' or even 'manual'. The whole creation part is not really relevant. Also, the entire Torah was written to be interpreted and explained. It is kind of hard top explain the foundation of Jewish Biblical understanding in a forum post, and I haven't much time before a festival tonight, and so I won't get into it now.

Oh yeah, it's Simchat Torah tonight isn't it? That would be great if I didn't have all this fucking work (by which is meant, I work and someone else somewhere fucks).

Anyway, I have a couple of words for Dr. Hawking: FOREVER ALONE.
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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby darthdavid » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:09 pm UTC

Callista wrote:The Creation account is written as a poem--more evidence that it's meant as a figurative interpretation rather than a scientific document.

Anyway, the Bible isn't a scientific document; it focuses almost exclusively on the history of the Jewish people and then the early church, and on theology and ethics.

The Bible talks about stuff that isn't material--you can't stuff God into a test tube; you can't perform medical tests on a human soul. Science just doesn't intersect with that kind of thing. It doesn't even intersect with ethics very much; however important it is for scientists to behave ethically, it's not science itself that determines what those laws of morality should be.

Funny then, that people only started actually treating it as figurative once it was proven that it was wrong. The idea that you can't test a human soul is a relatively new one. It only came about once we started being able to measure things with precision such that it became clear that there was no physical evidence for a soul. Once that happened people, enamored as they are with the idea of an afterlife and the other philosophical implications of souls, suddenly decided that they weren't physical after all (admittedly, some had been saying this all along) and that no test would find one. The idea that we cease completely upon death being unthinkable.

On morality, the goals of that are completely arbitrary and tend to vary person to person and culture to culture. Science and logic can, and I think should, have a place there though. After all, morality is basically just 'what do I think the interaction between people should look like', and how are you supposed to derive the optimal path to your desired outcome without empirical logic (ie science)?
Callista wrote:The only thing that both science and theology have in common is that they both need to follow the rules of logic; a theologian trying to argue the existence of God and an atheist trying to disprove it both need to make statements that don't contradict themselves, and so do scientists theorizing about the nature of the physical world.

They are quite simply separate fields, though, and I wish people would realize that.

And if all religious people took this attitude I wouldn't have much of a problem with religion. Look at the people in various places trying to 'teach the controversy' in science classrooms. Look at the people who'd restrict the rights of women, gays or anyone else at the drop of a hat because their book says they should. When the religionists stop trying to force everyone else to believe what they do I'll stop pointing out why their beliefs are all wrong. :D

Callista wrote:BTW--atheism has been used to justify deeds of cruelty too; many Communist countries did so. That doesn't mean atheists are sociopaths, any more than it means Christians are naturally cruel. Both groups are fallible human beings, capable of both cruelty and kindness, and unfortunately capable of using a belief system to justify their actions.

Atheism is simply a lack of belief in god. It's morally neutral, in the sense that there's no morality directly attached to it. The Bible is chock full of self contradictory lessons with the general trend to their morality being 'lessons that help preserve/spread the religion' (hence it's enduring popularity) and 'what some bronze age tribes/the people who (copied/translated/decided what was canon in) the book thought was moral'. This means that there's a lot of inbuilt justifications for immoral behavior and the worst part is that, ultimately, if you take 'this book is true' as your starting condition you can consider anything, no matter how evil moral and be logically correct and self consistent. Allow me to explain; per the christian bible anyone who doesn't accept Jesus is going to hell. Where they will be tortured for eternity. If you do accept Jesus (and in some faiths that's all you need to do) then you can go to heaven, where you'll spend eternity in paradise. Life is demonstrably finite. Since any finite number may as well be zero next to infinity, by this dogma any amount of suffering inflicted on a living person to keep them from hell after death is not just acceptable but the only moral choice.

So yes, if Hitler didn't have the bible to quote he could've found another excuse for a spot of ethnic cleansing. Some people are sociopathic enough to step on any number of heads, to kill any number of people to get what they want in the world. The reason I find religion immoral isn't because it gives those people an excuse to for their actions, but rather because it can twist the actions of otherwise good men, seeking only to do good in the world, until they're indistinguishable from those undertaken by aforementioned sociopaths.
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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby Plasma Man » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:12 pm UTC

I really liked the lettering when Hawking was speaking, it was a good way of showing the robotic sound of the speech synthesizer.

... Oh, sorry, I thought this was the comic discussion thread, not the religious wars one.
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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby markfiend » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:14 pm UTC

yedidyak wrote:
markfiend wrote:You can't have it both ways. If Genesis is an entirely divine account, it ought to be inerrant and correct on all points, without needing "interpretation" to make it say things it clearly doesn't say.


'Correct' in what way?

An account of what actually happened in the Universe's and the Earth's early history. That doesn't need hand-waving and "interpretation" to make it fit. Remember, the text as written clearly says that the Sun was created after plants.
yedidyak wrote:And how exactly would you explain the big bang and formation of the universe in a way comprehensible to people in the Bronze Age?

"In the beginning, everything was scrunched up really small," might be a good beginning.

But you're the one positing an almighty deity. Should be child's play for him. It's not up to me to write his book for him.
yedidyak wrote:The whole creation part is not really relevant.

Then why obsess over defending the indefensible?
yedidyak wrote:Also, the entire Torah was written to be interpreted and explained. It is kind of hard top explain the foundation of Jewish Biblical understanding in a forum post, and I haven't much time before a festival tonight, and so I won't get into it now.

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby uncivlengr » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:21 pm UTC

Uh, guys? The digression into a pointless religous debate isn't supposed to happen until at least page 4 of the comic discussions.
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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby dp2 » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:23 pm UTC

Just last week the teabaggers at work were demonizing Hawking for claiming he had disproved God. What he actually said was that God was not necessary to the universe's creation.

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby FourTael » Wed Sep 29, 2010 1:03 pm UTC

darthdavid wrote:
yedidyak wrote:
NotAllThere wrote:When I read in the Times that Hawkings says God doesn't exist, I was expecting to see on the inside pages an article by the Pope on M-Theory and Quantum Gravity.


Or an in depth study of theology by Hawking? I've never understood why theological comments by physicists are given more credence than scientific comments by theologians.

Because most religions attempt to explain reality, do a much worse job at it than scientists then attempt to convince the public that they're right and that people should listen to them instead of the scientists. Why shouldn't scientists attempt to steer people away from one of the biggest blocks on scientific progress in the modern world?


Thank you for your poor understanding of religion.

I'd also like to point out people attacking the first five chapters of Genesis as if it disproves religion as a whole: Fantastic understanding of religion, there.

The big things that always got me about "smarter people disbelieving in religion" argument (aside from the other logical fallacies) are:

1. These people are not experts in religion. Most have taken very little to no time to study it seriously. This can be shown by Garrett Lisi's reasons for being atheistic (a misunderstanding of religion as a whole and even certain interpretations of Christianity).

2. These arguments do not take academic culture into account. When people are surrounded by disbelievers, they are more likely to become a disbeliever themselves. It then becomes an issue of the situation you find yourself in. Certainly atheists can come from places where they are surrounded by religion, but so too can religion come from those surrounded by atheists. However, in the majority of cases, surrounding yourself with atheists tends to lead to atheism, and surrounding yourself with believers tends to lead to belief.

For a better explanation of how #2 works, consider many of the great scientific minds of the past, especially those that are still considered not true today (in spite of considerable research to suggest otherwise). For esample, Darwin's Root Brain Theory. Because the culture of the scientists that might have studied this dismissed plants as unthinking, then they dismissed the idea that a plant's root could be equivalent to the brain of an animal. It's taken over a hundred years for those in these professions to say that he might have been right in this regard, and in spite of considerable evidence, it's still often dismissed.

Keep in mind that this is a single example amongst many.

Also, if this is unclear or if I've stated something inaccurately, I apologize. It's about 6 AM here (earlier since I started writing this), and my mind has yet to begin to fully function.

I do think it's quite interesting to see not only how people place undue emphasis on the word of certain people, but also how people can twist Hawking's words to serve their own interests.

I'm sure that's never happened before in any sort of way to anybody else that people admire...

(It's funny cause I probably do it, too)

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby kingworks » Wed Sep 29, 2010 1:05 pm UTC

From the inerrant and divine Wikipedia:
Theoretical physics is a branch of physics which employs mathematical models and abstractions of physics in an attempt to explain natural phenomena. Its central core is mathematical physics, though other conceptual techniques are also used. The goal is to rationalize, explain and predict physical phenomena.

The advancement of science depends in general on the interplay between experimental studies and theory. In some cases, theoretical physics adheres to standards of mathematical rigor while giving little weight to experiments and observations.


So, aside from the 'central core of mathematics,' Theoretical Physics sounds a lot like a religion.

*runs to grab asbestos suit*

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby uncivlengr » Wed Sep 29, 2010 1:17 pm UTC

Coincidentally, both the comic and the religious tangent remind me of this.
I don't know what to do for you

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby lingomaniac88 » Wed Sep 29, 2010 1:28 pm UTC

uncivlengr wrote:So, anyone else initially think the name of the newspaper was, "THE TITTIES"?

Aargh, I can't unsee it!
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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby jc » Wed Sep 29, 2010 1:52 pm UTC

kingworks wrote:So, aside from the 'central core of mathematics,' Theoretical Physics sounds a lot like a religion.


Actually, there's a major difference. If some experimentalists find ways to test current theories of Theoretical Physics, and find violations of those theories, the physicists will shrug, and start developing theories that take the new observations into account. This is what happened with the Michelson-Morley experiments, for example, leading to Relativity and Quantum Mechanics.

If some experimentalists were to find exceptions to the theories of major religions, however, the results would be different. The religious people would hunt down the the experimentalists, jail or kill them, then hunt down all their publications and destroy them. They wouldn't develop new theories; they'd do everything in their power to suppress and exterminate the supporters of competing theories.

If we want a better world, we're probably better off following the scientific approach than the religious approach. Thus, thousands of years of religious "development" never produced any cures for diseases, improved crops, central heating, etc. It only took a few centuries of science to produce such improvements in our lives. If we want our descendants to live better lives, it's obvious who has the better record of delivering improvements.

Historically, the main effect that religions have had is to deliver misery to most of the population. And they're done this on the authority of their God, without even presenting any evidence that such a God exists.

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby markfiend » Wed Sep 29, 2010 2:08 pm UTC

FourTael wrote:1. These people are not experts in religion. Most have taken very little to no time to study it seriously. This can be shown by Garrett Lisi's reasons for being atheistic (a misunderstanding of religion as a whole and even certain interpretations of Christianity).

Wrong. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center showed that atheists, on average, have far better religious knowledge than believers. (Source)

45% of Catholics they surveyed didn't even know that, according to Catholic dogma, transubstantiation is a real miracle at every Mass.

I dealt with this question up-thread -- your point smacks entirely of the Courtier's Reply.
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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby Introbulus » Wed Sep 29, 2010 2:15 pm UTC

Eternal Density wrote:This makes me want to hug Hawking. *shrug*


Me too. ;w; Or send him a thank-you card for being such a cool guy.

Or:

"Hey, you know that meat that seems to infect diseases when eaten? Maybe we shouldn't eating it until we find some way to clean it thoroughly."

PORK IS UNCLEAN AND SHALL NOT BE CONSUMED.


"You know guys, you should respect thy neighbors."
"Oh, you mean like the guy next door to me?"
"Er, no, I mean the muslims."
"What's that? Declare a holy war on the muslims?
"What?! NO! I said to respect thy neighbors!"
"What's that? You say we can eat your slice of birthday cake? why Jesus, you're such a generous guy!"
"..."
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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby Matt_Zero » Wed Sep 29, 2010 2:36 pm UTC

I'm waiting for someone to prove Godwin's Law right now...

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby SirMustapha » Wed Sep 29, 2010 2:50 pm UTC

cypherspace wrote:
yedidyak wrote:Or an in depth study of theology by Hawking? I've never understood why theological comments by physicists are given more credence than scientific comments by theologians.
Because journalists are morons and don't understand science.

Stereotypes a-go-go!


Would that be because journalism is a LIBERAL ART?

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby FourTael » Wed Sep 29, 2010 3:21 pm UTC

markfiend wrote:
FourTael wrote:1. These people are not experts in religion. Most have taken very little to no time to study it seriously. This can be shown by Garrett Lisi's reasons for being atheistic (a misunderstanding of religion as a whole and even certain interpretations of Christianity).

Wrong. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center showed that atheists, on average, have far better religious knowledge than believers. (Source)

45% of Catholics they surveyed didn't even know that, according to Catholic dogma, transubstantiation is a real miracle at every Mass.

I dealt with this question up-thread -- your point smacks entirely of the Courtier's Reply.


I did not say 1. Believers know a lot more about religion that atheists. I said:

FourTael wrote:1. These people are not experts in religion. Most have taken very little to no time to study it seriously. This can be shown by Garrett Lisi's reasons for being atheistic (a misunderstanding of religion as a whole and even certain interpretations of Christianity).


Keep in mind that many believers do not study it seriously either. Knowing a bit more than a person that's done no research into a subject tends to mean very little. I know more about poker than most people that play poker, but that hardly makes me an expert. In fact, that presents an interesting trap: You know more than the people you deal with on a regular basis, and that leads to arrogance.

Many believers, such as myself, have studied religion. Most have not. This is a simple but sad truth.

One more thing I'd like to point out is that the "proof" tends to be more about general religious knowledge (statistics and facts), not actual analysis of religion:

In addition, fewer than half of Americans (47%) know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist. Fewer than four-in-ten (38%) correctly associate Vishnu and Shiva with Hinduism. And only about a quarter of all Americans (27%) correctly answer that most people in Indonesia -- the country with the world's largest Muslim population -- are Muslims.


As an example, my sister constantly corrects me when I say "Tao", presenting a great misunderstanding of the term and the religion as a whole. So while she may have read the Tao Te Ching (or, a better term might be Tao De Jing), she does not actually understand it and has not spent time in analysis of it. Again, I would like to point you to Garrett Lisi's atheistic beliefs (and what seems to be a common argument, in fact).

Studying religion, like any subject, required thought and analysis. Being able to quote facts and figures does you know good if you do not understand the reasoning (or, especially, the history) of these texts.

Again I'd like to point out the argument involving the first five chapters of Genesis. If you don't know what I'm talking about, that's kind of my point.

Edit: This is especially glaring on questions about Hinduism. Anyone who's studied Hinduism in depth knows what Vishnu and Shiva are. Anyone who's read facts and figures on Hinduism only know of their existence in the religion.

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby Rackum » Wed Sep 29, 2010 3:24 pm UTC

Matt_Zero wrote:I'm waiting for someone to prove Godwin's Law right now...


It appear's it's already been proven:

darthdavid wrote:...So yes, if Hitler didn't have the bible to quote he could've found another excuse for a spot of ethnic cleansing. Some people are sociopathic enough to step on any number of heads, to kill any number of people to get what they want in the world.

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby Sprocket » Wed Sep 29, 2010 3:25 pm UTC

lol.

Man The Town pisses me off. I hate Ben Affleck soooo much. I hate the bizarre Hollywood idea of Boston. Sigh.
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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby shpoffo » Wed Sep 29, 2010 3:40 pm UTC

So what is todays strip - a cut at Hawking's opinion that aliens exist, mixed with the news that the UN appointed an ambassador for first contact?

It's funny that the strip today is about Hawking, and potentially the above (in an indirect way) – I just wrote a bit about the UN appointment. I'll include xkcd in my circle and share the blog link

http://www.newalexandria.org/thinking/2 ... diplomacy/

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby dietaether » Wed Sep 29, 2010 3:46 pm UTC

yedidyak wrote:
markfiend wrote:
yedidyak wrote:Not if a basic part of your religion is that the Pentateuch is entirely divine.

You can't have it both ways. If Genesis is an entirely divine account, it ought to be inerrant and correct on all points, without needing "interpretation" to make it say things it clearly doesn't say.


'Correct' in what way? And how exactly would you explain the big bang and formation of the universe in a way comprehensible to people in the Bronze Age?


Me personally, if I were a divine being, I would pick out a prophet who could handle it. I know this isn't bronze age, but if for example God came to Isaac Newton and said "Your understanding of gravity is quite brilliant, but you have a few things wrong. Gravity is not so much a force exerted by massive bodies, but a result of massive bodies curving three dimensional space. Here, let me show you." I'm sure he'd be able to handle it, in spite of relativity being ~300 years ahead of his time. Likewise, I'm sure if you had access to every brilliant mind on the planet, it would be easy to find (or, hell, create) one capable of understanding and say "look, this might be confusing, but hear me out. everything in the universe is made of particles so small that you could never see them with your eyes. these particles interact with each other to form everything from the air you breathe to water to rocks and metal to people and animals. these particles were made in the center of stars-- oh yeah, i forgot to mention, the stars and the sun are the same things, one is just much closer than the others so it looks a bit different. anyway, where was I? oh, right. so the particles that make up everything on Earth were created by the explosion of a star which eventually stuck together and formed a ball. this process has been going on for a very long time, with ancient stars exploding and forming new planets and stars, but at the beginning of time, all those particles that make up the entire universe could fit on the head of a pin."
If I were god, I'd also make sure that this prophet lived in a place like Egypt where every damn thing in the world was written down instead of passed along by word of mouth. I'd make sure nobody got it wrong.

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby markfiend » Wed Sep 29, 2010 3:51 pm UTC

FourTael wrote:I did not say 1. Believers know a lot more about religion that atheists. I said:

FourTael wrote:1. These people are not experts in religion. Most have taken very little to no time to study it seriously. This can be shown by Garrett Lisi's reasons for being atheistic (a misunderstanding of religion as a whole and even certain interpretations of Christianity).

OK, I misunderstood. My apologies. FWIW I have no idea who Garrett Lisi is or what he believes.
FourTael wrote:Keep in mind that many believers do not study it seriously either. Knowing a bit more than a person that's done no research into a subject tends to mean very little. I know more about poker than most people that play poker, but that hardly makes me an expert. In fact, that presents an interesting trap: You know more than the people you deal with on a regular basis, and that leads to arrogance.

Surely a believer should be expected to know something about the religion in which she claims to believe? Especially when being challenged to defend her belief.

The fact that (as I pointed out) 45% of Catholics surveyed in the poll apparently did not know one of the core beliefs of their own religion simply beggars belief.
FourTael wrote:Many believers, such as myself, have studied religion. Most have not. This is a simple but sad truth.

Agreed. I am at a lack to understand how anyone can claim to believe or disbelieve without making at least some attempt to understand the subject.

(snipped some stuff)
FourTael wrote:Again I'd like to point out the argument involving the first five chapters of Genesis. If you don't know what I'm talking about, that's kind of my point.

Oh, I'm not trying to demolish the whole of religion based on an analysis of Genesis. It wasn't me who brought up Genesis in the first place, it was yedidyak. All I was trying to point out was that trying to prop up any creation mythology with modern science is a futile exercise. The mythology might kind-of fit if you're generous (or want it to fit) but on the whole you have to force the text to fit the science (yedidyak's approach) or force the science to fit the mythology (the approach of the literal 6-day creation mob).

All I'm saying is that when (among other things) Genesis chapter 1 says that plants were created before the Sun, we can safely say that it can be dismissed as any kind of literal account. I'm not discounting its value as (for instance) poetry.
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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby myrcutio » Wed Sep 29, 2010 3:57 pm UTC

It's kind of funny reading this pissing match over an ancient etiology of creation. Why is it that no one argues in favor of the Gaia origin theory? Hesiod has the same level of scientific description as King James, and a lot more action. Scientific thinking has made its own embarrassing mistakes, what with string theory and the multiple unified theories of everything. That's no reason to get hung up on a plot hole, just skip past it and look for the theological arguments.

What's the scientific proof against the idea that killing people will send you to hell? Historically, killing people is good for self-preservation, likewise for natural selection. Scientific arguments tend to ignore moral implications, whereas theological arguments use morality to explain god/s.

There now, tear me apart, and don't forget Godwin's Law.
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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby LaserGuy » Wed Sep 29, 2010 4:02 pm UTC

Kyrn wrote:My explanation:
Day 1: Refers to matter and antimatter states.
Day 2: Refers to matter states itself (solids, liquids, gas, plasma).
Day 3: Refers to consolidation of solids (molecules, inc biological molecules)
Day 4: Creation of star systems.
Day 5: Creation of life as we know it. Birds refers to insects. (alternatively, reptiles and avians together)
Day 6: Reptiles, Avians, Mammals. (alternatively, mammals alone)

You're still taking things too literally.


Well, there's a serious problem with your explanation here. Stars must have been created before biological molecules. Indeed, stars must have been around, for some time, before any substantial amount of any atom larger than helium (maybe the odd bit of lithium) could have existed. Stars are atom factories--they use hydrogen as fuel to produce helium, helium as fuel to produce higher elements (C-N-O), and those in turn to produce even higher elements. To get up as high as, say, Iron, you need to get to the very end of the life cycle of a star. In fact, our Sun is a Population I (third generation) star--that is, to within a not terribly unreasonable approximation, before the creation of our Sun, two previous generations of stars were formed, burned up into higher elements, and destroyed by supernova. Placing the creation of molecules before the creation of stars is completely inconsistent with our understanding of stellar evolution and the production of the elements.

[quote=yedidyak]To Kyrn - try this, remember that as the universe expands our time slows down relative to time passing at the speed it did at the point and moment of the big bang, so 'days' get logarithmically shorter.[/quote]

Such an exponential decay only occurs during the inflationary period. In the current regime, Hubble's Law applies.

3 - Seas form on Earth as the temperature drops. Immediately life starts. (An interesting phenomena as yet unexplained by science. If formation of life was the collision of a large amount of complex amino acids and stuff, it would have taken a lot of time. if you try to work out how long, it takes longer than the universe has existed. But maybe a solution will be found someday) Fish (i.e. all water-dwelling life forms) and plants form.

4 - The atmosphere as we know it forms, making the sky transparent.

5 - Large fish, i.e. larger than single cells form, and insects.
[/quote]

Plants can't exist if the atmosphere is opaque. Day 3 and 5 are directly contradictory: anything that could be reasonably called either a "fish" or a "plant" is multicellular.

As far as Schroeder's book is concerned, I will direct you to a review at Talk Reason discussing some of its problems.

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby JohnofArc » Wed Sep 29, 2010 4:03 pm UTC

Might have something to do with the fact that you can credibly prove theologians wrong with science and not the other way round - unless, of course, "because god made it so" counts as a credible argument


Because most religions attempt to explain reality, do a much worse job at it than scientists then attempt to convince the public that they're right and that people should listen to them instead of the scientists. Why shouldn't scientists attempt to steer people away from one of the biggest blocks on scientific progress in the modern world?


Unless they provide something new other than "God made it so", there's nothing else to hear. Granted if they DO have something new other than "God made it so" (like WHY or HOW God made it so, other than deception alone), then I would be more interested. For instance, using relative timeframes to frame the creation of the universe in a bibical sense? That's interesting.

I like how all of these boil down to "because I agree with the scientist and not the theologian".

It's also hilarious how none of you actually have studied enough about religion to understand science and religion aren't even necessarily contradictory, especially considering that science and religion have essentially the same goal but differ in the method used to attain that goal.

The irony is that trying to prove religion is false through science is like trying to prove science is false through religion. Firstly because atheism and theism contradict each other, not modern science and modern religion (most forms of modern christianity, which is all most of you are familiar with anyway). Not necessarily, anyway. More importantly though, most arguments for religion (argument from design, ontological argument, pascal's wager, etc...) fall under the category of philosophy, and it's near impossible for a scientist, on whose head the burden of proof falls if he's attempting to disprove religion, to scientifically prove those arguments wrong.
Last edited by JohnofArc on Wed Sep 29, 2010 4:18 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby DCB » Wed Sep 29, 2010 4:14 pm UTC

jc wrote:If some experimentalists were to find exceptions to the theories of major religions, however, the results would be different. The religious people would hunt down the the experimentalists, jail or kill them, then hunt down all their publications and destroy them. They wouldn't develop new theories; they'd do everything in their power to suppress and exterminate the supporters of competing theories.


True, eventually... How long would it take for the new theories to take hold and overcome the old theories? Scientists are very protective of their paradigms. The political side of research and discovery has obstructed progress (not to mention stolen glory from deserving people). Science just calls it debate, perhaps science shifts paradigms more quickly, but let's get into hypotheticals:

Let's say we clone Albert Einstein and he solves the problem of joining quantum mechanics and relativity, but he does so in a way that proves string theory is entirely bullshit. Do you seriously think those thousands of entrenched string theorists - probably tens of thousands worldwide - are going to start from scratch on a new theory? No! They're going to lob shit at Einstein as long as they can hoping they can retire before their entire career is proven to have been worth jack shit.

There's actually a small contingent of physicists suggesting a modification of gravity at galactic levels which would make dark matter unnecessary (dark energy would still have to exist), but do you ever hear anything about that in the paper or on tv? No, the string theorists and particle theorists are spending shitloads of money brainwashing the public into believing in 11 dimensional vibrating membranes and Higgs' Bosons with pseudoscientific TV shows and sound bites.

Religion has changed as evidenced by the fact that there ARE dead religions. Each of them is a failed theory of the universe and everything, traditional religions take longer to change because there is no quantitative characteristic in them as there is in science. I would argue that science is actually a religion - one that worships knowledge - and any radically new piece of knowledge is basically a new god to worship and when a new god has to replace an old god, the old god's priests take up arms.

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Re: "Stephen Hawking" discussion (#799)

Postby markfiend » Wed Sep 29, 2010 4:18 pm UTC

JohnofArc wrote:It's also hilarious how none of you actually have studied enough about religion to understand science and religion aren't even necessarily contradictory, especially considering that science and religion have essentially the same goal but differ in the method used to attain that goal.
Of course, you might ask, why would I bother actually learning about a mindset I don't believe in before trying to argue against it? That's preposterous, what kind of scientifically minded person looks at all the evidence before reaching a conclusion? Obviously my faith that religion is false is enough to disprove it.

What makes you think I haven't studied enough about religion? This is an arrogant assumption. The only reason I don't believe is that I don't understand?

Explain it then. What is a god? How does a god create a universe? Why does a universe need to be created but a god doesn't?

And, given that your answers will apply as well to any of the million-and-one conceptions of deity that mankind has come up with, how do you get from "a god exists" to the god that you believe in?
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