Hawking and Mlodinow’s Proof for God, Revisited

In February, I wrote a post showing that Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow’s attempt to disprove the necessity of a Creator actually does the opposite.  By having a book-length discussion of the logical premises which atheists have to accept in order to write off a Creator, it became clear that the argument was circular.  This was the resulting chart of their argument:

My point was that Theism must be true, since the alternative is logically impossible.  A commenter named Ian, apparently an atheist, has commented on it, and I thought I’d respond to it here.

Ian,

I’m thankful you responded to the post, and I hope you keep up the interactions. They’re intellectually and spiritually stimulating, and I hope that we can both grow from them.  You begin your comment as follows:

Wait, hold up.
Seriously?


I mean, yes, I agree with the general shadow of arrogance and misguided certainty and even that their attempts at answering the unanswerable question failed before they began, but the degree to which the religious commit these same sins is not even on the same scale.

This isn’t really an argument. It’s another logical fallacy.  Even if it’s true that “the religious” commit “these same sins” of logical incoherence on a larger scale, so what?  My point wasn’t, “these atheists make stupid arguments, therefore Theism is true,” but “these atheists present quite clearly why atheism is logically impossible, since it relies upon an impossible Creation narrative.”  The attempt to just shuffle the question of the Creation away to “unanswerable question” status won’t do, either.  Whatever else may be true, Atheism can’t be right. And Hawking and Mlodinow inadvertently make it crystal clear why this is so.

You continue:

“Let’s leave aside the absurdity of the whole “multiverse” theory”
Why is this absurd? What faulty assumptions does the authors and the entire scientific community make when they look at the M-theory? I read John Haldane’s article and credentials. It seems that you’ve fallen victim to a fallacy known as an appeal to authority. John Haldane is a professor of philosophy. Therefore, to base your physical argument on his authority is like taking surfing lessons from Albert Einstein (though, some still fail to see the fallacy even when it’s laid out as such).
There’s a certain irony,  Ian,  in accusing me of making the appeal to authority fallacy two sentences after a vague appeal to “the entire scientific community” as authority.  In so appealing, you either knowingly overstate your case, or doesn’t know enough about M-Theory to state the case to begin with.  Multiverse theory is by no means accepted in the entire scientific community, and it’s from other scientists that I’ve read some of the most damning indictments of M-Theory as junk pseudoscience.   For example, Peter Woit (Ph.D., particle theory) wrote Not Even Wrong, showing that string theory and M-Theory aren’t falsifiable, and thus fail the basic test for “science.”  One of Woit’s blog posts captures the basic argument: M-Theory is philosophical and metaphysical, and is frequently clung to religiously by atheists, in an attempt to explain away the necessity of a Creator.   Note the distinction well.  There are false scientific theories (Lamarckism) and non-scientific theories (the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776).
Of course, since M-Theory is more properly metaphysics or philosophy, we’re well within John Haldane’s area of expertise. Besides this, science is essentially the nexus of applied mathematics and philosophy, so even if M-Theory were science, it’d still be subject to the rules of formal logic, etc. (this, by the way, is one of the things that makes science falsifiable).  To keep with your Einstein analogy, this is like finding out that  “Wave Theory” isn’t really about surfing at all, so maybe Einstein does know something about it.  In any case, I wasn’t appealing to Haldane because of his credentials (hence, not an appeal to authority), but because I thought he did a good job presenting the argument against M-Theory.  I didn’t bother to do so, since the point of my post was that whether or not M-Theory is right, a Creator is still required for multiple universes as much as for one universe. This point, by the way, remains unrebutted.
“They then explain the basic theory behind the “multiverse,” which presupposes that multiple universes exist”
Multiverse theory has more in its arsenal than any ancient religious book. Namely, the scientific community, in which EVERY theory is ruthlessly and relentlessly tested and whose purpose is to attempt to falsify/strengthen every theory. And this theory is no exception. Can you do this with religion? No. There is no progress in religion precisely because of the supposed inerrancy of such books like the Bible and the Quran.

I’ve already answered the theory that M-Theory is right, or even science.  So let’s move on to your flawed working assumptions. Falsely equating Catholicism with sola Scriptura Protestantism with Islam shows a profound misunderstanding of all three.  The relationship between Catholicism, Tradition, and Scripture is much more dynamic than you realize — read other posts here or elsewhere to see why this is so. Short answer, Catholicism (particularly the academic and monastic system) is the major reason that Europe ended up a scientific and intellectual powerhouse, a Catholic monk started the field of genetics, while a Catholic priest started the field of Big Bang cosmology (and was the first to argue for the Big Bang), so I don’t think we have to answer for being an anti-science religion.

More to the point of your crippling epistemological blinders, plenty of things are true without being natural science (like history), and more to the point, plenty of things are falsifiable without being natural science (while the converse isn’t true).

Catholicism, the religion to which I adhere and defend, presents logical bases upon which the case for a Creator may be made — Aquinas’ Quinque Viae are the most famous, but there are many others. All of these are potentially falsifiable through logic and philosophy, and have been subject to much debate. Likewise, Catholicism makes specific historical claims about Jesus Christ and the Church, all of which are falsifiable through history. Finally, Catholicism makes a series of claims about Herself, such as declaring that She will never contradict Her earlier proclamations in authoritatively defining issues of faith and morals. If anyone could point to a single time that the Catholic Church unambiguously contradicted Herself in authoritatively defining an area of faith and morals at any point in the last two thousand years, the Catholic case is disproven. If anyone can prove that the New Testament writings are forgeries, the Catholic case is disproven. If anyone can prove that it’s logically impossible for a Creator, the Catholic case is disproven.

So the fact that Catholicism hasn’t needed to “progress” from the Bible might just mean that the Bible actually is inerrant.  Let’s take the purest science, mathematics. You have your basic multiplication tables.  These never change because the numbers are right.  If we had to update our multiplication tables, it wouldn’t be some promising sign of scientific progress, but a glaring indictment of our own inadequacies.  Here, Catholicism argues that Scripture comes to us inspired by God.  If a particular theory stands up to two thousand years of testing, that doesn’t mean that the theory is therefore false. It generally means the opposite.

“Spontaneous Creation is the reason that there is something rather than nothing, including the Universe”
Not completely false, although creation out of nothing is the definition, rather than the result, of spontaneous creation.
Those are Hawking and Mlodinow’s words, not mine. I even underlined them in the original post.

And it’s curious that you squint at the splinters of circular reasoning in the eyes of Hawking and Mlodinow.

You don’t actually provide a single example of circular reasoning I use, or that Catholicism uses.  But let’s assume you can find one.  My argument isn’t that circular reasoning is automatically wrong.  You may believe your mom because she’s your mom; and since you believe her, you trust her when she says she’s your mom.  It’s circular, but you happen to be correct, in spite of a weak proof. That is, you can have bad proofs for actual truths. Here, in contrast, Hawking and Mlodinow’s circular argument is per se incorrect. You couldn’t explain the dawn of the Industrial Age by saying “machines created the first machines,” not just because it’s logically circular, but because it’s logically impossible.  Their argument creates an infinite loop, and an infinite loop can’t be the source of the Universe, can it?
So we’re still left with the point you never addressed.  It’s not logically possible for atheism to be correct, since it can’t even form a coherent (non-self-refuting) Creation narrative.
God bless you, and please, Ian (or anyone else), feel free to keep up the comments / criticism / inquiries in the comments section below.

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